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We Were Made for This

February 27, 2023

This semester the focus on our institution has been all about budget cuts. I imagine most of you are facing similar struggles with your own organizations. It has been disheartening to be told things like, “Even some of the good things we’re doing will have to go.” For example, I have written in the past about a free pantry I help to operate out of our library, which provides students with food, personal hygiene, and health items. We have just been told that until we come up with a way to get some of the items donated, we can only afford to purchase food items. One thing I have observed in every library I have worked at is the deep compassion and care we librarians have for our patrons.

Libraries are not just about caring for the information needs of our users. We all care so deeply about nurturing the whole person. Something that has given me comfort during these times of significant budget cuts is that this is not a new challenge for us. Libraries have always had to be resourceful and attempt to provide the most on the least. In a sense, we were made for times like these. While many of the meetings I attend with colleagues from across campus are a bit depressing as they all are about the budget cuts, I also find I am constantly brewing with ideas of how to make this work. I refuse to follow the advice of even the good things will have to go.

Our entire profession is dedicated to research and operating with all the information in hand. I believe we can use these strengths to be a beacon of hope in our institutions right now. Our university is currently on a hiring freeze, as are many right now. This has left many people feeling exhausted and overworked as they deal with increasing workloads and no hope of vacant positions ever being filled. I have been encouraging my colleagues to take advantage of our students. I have been urging my colleagues to offer more work study positions and internships in their offices. While it is not ethical to expect our students to take the place of full-time staff members, there are certainly projects and tasks we can hand off to them or have them assist with. I’m currently working on a collection review and diversity audit of our children’s literature collection, and I’ve hired a student worker, who wants to work as a children’s librarian, to assist with checking to see if titles are on the shelf and looking are their physical condition. This has freed me up for the more complex work of meeting with the Education faculty and researching what we have and what we need.

As our organizations call on us to make cuts, we need to help our colleagues in other departments who may not be as familiar with operating on less. This is a great time to lean on our strengths as information professionals and help support our institutions through these tough times. We are all so resourceful, and now, our colleagues from across campus need our resourcefulness. Let’s get to work!

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