Over the past few years, I’ve recognized an increasing need and desire to understand the ins and outs of how finances work in higher education. Our library’s ability to obtain the resources to meet our mission is tightly interwoven in the larger university financial maze! However, unless you have a position where finances are part of your responsibilities, it’s difficult to really get an in-depth look at how it all works. I’ve gotten the broad 20,000 ft. view in last year’s leadership program, and I’ve had the front-line introduction to managing a grant’s finances, but I haven’t had the opportunity to see how it intersects (and what goes on in between the big picture and the in the trenches budgeting).
Lynn knows I’ve been hoping to improve my knowledge in this area and brought this ACRL online class to my attention. ACRL offers a wide range of short term online classes that are reasonably priced and are structured to fit the needs of busy professionals. Successful Budgeting in Academic Libraries was offered this past spring as a three-week asynchronous class. Each week, the instructor provided a “lecture,” which was a document that covered the topic for the week. Week one was Introduction to Finance in Higher Education, week two was Understanding Library Budgets, and the final week was writing Persuasive Budget Proposals. Although all of the content was presented asynchronously, the instructor (Melissa Wong) held weekly synchronous chat session where students could ask questions and explore topics more fully. She also provided discussion areas for people to exchange ideas throughout the week.
The course was valuable in that it provided me a framework for what’s happening beyond the library walls (ie institutional revenue streams) and what we have control of locally (typical line items in a library budget). The most valuable part of the course was the result of our first weekly assignment which was to conduct an informational interview to find out about financial and budget processes on our own campuses. Of course, I asked Lynn to talk with me, and through the questions that were suggested by the instructor, discovered a wealth of new information and context to put it into! I also had my first look at the library’s operating budget and now have a much clearer picture of how our funds are allocated and spent.
As it turns out, one of my first UNCG “core” courses this fall is about finance. I feel certain that this e-course introduction will allow me to have a basic starting point for getting into the topic at a deeper level.