Library Funding

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Scenario: Imagine that you are the director of student services at a small, private liberal arts college, supervising admissions, academic advising, and the library.

Your faculty senate met recently and discussed their concerns that students do not know enough about the internet and modern information technology. The senate recently passed a resolution to require all students to demonstrate competence in information literacy before they begin their second year. The senate defined information literacy as “the ability to locate, access, understand, and evaluate information using current technology”.

The senate then formed a committee to determine how to implement their new requirement. The committee’s recommendation is to use the existing one-credit “Introduction to Library Research” class that the library — one of your departments — currently offers. This class has traditionally been taught by your five librarians, who are paid as adjunct faculty for each section they teach.

You are preparing your budget request for next year to include resources you will need to offer a sufficient number of “Introduction to Library Research” sections to meet the new information literacy requirement for freshmen. As part of your planning, you ask your library manager for her input. She suggests that, if some senior students could be hired as teaching assistants, it would significantly ease the workload on the librarians who will be teaching the courses. She also tells you that there is some excellent new software coming out that could be used in the classes. You say that you will include both of those items in your budget request.

Earlier in the year, before the new information literacy requirement was passed, you had promised your library staff new office furniture to replace their old furniture. As you are preparing your final budget request for next year, and considering the new recommendations from your library manager, you are concerned that you are not likely to get money for all three items — student teaching assistants, new software, and new furniture — and decide that new office furniture can wait. You take out the amount you were going to request for office furniture and instead include the money just for the student teaching assistants and new software. Then, you distribute your final budget request to your entire staff.

In June, almost at the end of the fiscal year, you return from a short vacation to discover new office furniture in your librarians’ offices. You confront your library manager about this. She says that she had not been able to spend all of her “supplies, equipment, and software” money this year, and was told by the budget office that she would lose any monies she did not spend. Your question, of course, is why she did not buy the new information literacy software she recommended to you, and she said that there had been a delay in its release — it will not be available until late July after the end of the current fiscal year. She said she knew that you had wanted the librarians to have new office furniture and thought this was a perfect opportunity to purchase it because it had been taken out of the budget for next year.

  • Analyze the situation from an ethical perspective.
  • What are the ethical problems in this scenario?
  • What impact(s) do your choices and your library manager’s choices have on you, your staff, and the library?
  • How might you do things differently to avoid these problems?
  • What would you do differently?

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