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The only one who can save your job is you

It's that unhappy time of year again for many school districts.

The budget forecast for 2018-19 may not looking very rosy. Funding is not keeping up with inflation and needed programming. Enrollment is declining. Unfunded new state and federal mandates keep appearing. You know the causes. So many school administrators are being asked to reduced their building or operational budgets.

And guess what cut often makes the Top-Ten-List-You-Do-Not-Want-To-Be-On: library staffing, of course.

Coming from about 40 years of either being a school librarian or being a library supervisor, here are some hard facts about avoiding being a budget reduction casualty:

  1. If your job reduction is public information, it is too late to do much about it. Sadly, most rank and file librarians know little or nothing about the budgeting process for their school. Budgeting for the next school year starts usually very early. Once decisions have been made about where to cut, changing those decisions is nearly impossible, especially when already released to the public. Influence has to be exerted early in the budgeting process.
  2. The media supervisor or tech director can't save your job. Unless library staffing is a part of a district-wide budget (rare, in my experience), it will be the building principal who make the decision of what to cut in her building. While I can guide and advocate in my district-level postion of library supervisor, I can't tell other administrators how to spend their building funds. Tough relying on charm rather than power to influence.
  3. Only others can advocate for you. You can't advocate for yourself. If library staffing hours are mentioned as a budget cut, who expresses concern? If it is only the library staff, you have a serious problem. You cannot advocate for yourself. Librarians must rely on teachers, students, and parents to advocate on their behalf. If your program is integrated and genuinely supports the goals of the school and the needs of staff and students, this should not be a problem. (See Whose Voices)
  4. Only you can save your job, but it has to be through continuous effort. The reality is that it is really tough to advocate for something if you don't know much about it. Who knows what you as a librarian do on a daily basis? How do parents find out about the important work you do with their children? (See Power of Parents) Is your building principal aware of your program and its impact on kids? (See No Principal Left Behind). If you do not have a formal communications plan for your program, you cannot expect others to know about your program.

I addressed this dreary topic in more detail in 2004 in an article called When Your Job is on the Line. The basic truths are still the basic truths of budgeting and library staffing.

The primary truth is still: The only one who can save your job is you.

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