Notes from a Novice Budget Member

In July, I began my first year as a member of ALSC’s Budget Committee. “I’ll see the inner workings of the organization!” I thought. “I’m excited to learn more about how the division operates!” I manage budgets in my job as a children’s librarian–covering programming and materials collection for the children’s room–but those spreadsheets have fewer columns and definitely fewer zeroes than ALSC’s $3 million budget.

I read the introductory documents and started getting myself acquainted with ALSC’s revenue streams and costs. (There are many. Let’s discuss the price of conference AV services another time.) I began to learn about how the division’s budget intersects with the finances of the larger ALA organization. I had opportunities to sit in on meetings and ask questions, but as a new member to the committee, I haven’t always known even what questions to pose.

Sitting in the room for my first official Budget meetings at Midwinter Conference in January, I learned a few valuable items. While many of us identify with our division–volunteering our time, donating our money, and advocating for the shared values of ALSC specifically–this division is one part of ALA. We do not operate independently and our finances are not completely separate. Sometimes, that means that ALA makes choices about money that we think of as belonging to ALSC. That happened recently and you can read the ALSC Board’s statement about it on the blog here.

Even with the unusual circumstances, I gleaned a couple more important points from our meetings. The division’s Executive Director, Aimee Strittmatter, maintains a meticulous budget. She provides well-sourced and clear projections, explains discrepancies and highlights areas that have the potential for change. For a newbie to this committee, her willingness to break down the individual components of the budget proved enormously helpful. She answered all our questions (with more exposure, I finally started figuring out what to ask!) and connected the numbers on the page with the division’s goals and values.

I also learned that ALSC is a financially stable division, with the resources to develop along with the needs of our members. The organization and leadership of ALSC have cultivated a dedicated and productive membership–library staff and related professionals across the country–who contribute to and benefit from the ALSC community. That commitment shows in the spreadsheets.

Undoubtedly, blank spots remain in my understanding of ALSC’s finances; I expect to keep reading, sitting in on organizational meetings and asking questions. But my first sessions on the Budget Committee did offer my desired glimpse into the mechanisms of the division and I can report that those inner workings are really quite tidy. To previous members of this committee, thank you for your participation in the responsible stewardship of our organization. To possible future members: come join us! It’s not nearly as scary in here as you might think.

This post was written by Robbin Friedman. Robbin is a children’s librarian at the Chappaqua Library and serves on ALSC’s Budget Committee.

This post addresses the ALSC Core Competency of Professionalism and Professional Development.

One comment

  1. Christopher Brown

    Great blog post Robbin! The budget committee is one of the most important in ALSC and it’s something that everyone should observe at least once. ALSC is the hardest working division in ALA and I’m happy to read that they have a dedicated member in you.

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