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Book Reviews

Robert E. Dugan and Peter Hernon. Financial Management in Academic Libraries: Data-Driven Planning and Budgeting. Chicago: American Library Association for the Association of College and Research Libraries, 2018. 200p. Paper, $56.00 (ISBN: 978-0-8389-8943-2).

Book cover for Financial Management in Academic Libraries: Data-Driven Planning and Budgeting

Many areas of academic libraries receive a lot of attention. Technology in its many forms is a big one as well as library instruction. There is much interest around changing cataloging and metadata standards and their impact on discovery. Whole conferences are dedicated to assessment and collection development. We read about newly renovated library spaces and new mergers between vendors and publishers. Within each of these and many other issues, there is frequently a section, paragraph, or maybe just a sentence that speaks to the financial aspect. These financial aspects shift and change from institution to institution, from library to library. Every academic library wrestles with its financial picture as it tries to serve its institution in a panoply of ways. To aid in this struggle, Robert Dugan and Peter Hernon have put together the text Financial Management in Academic Libraries: Data-Driven Planning and Budgeting.

This book is not written for the money changers or those hidden behind a stack of ledgers. It is a book written for librarians who seek to better understand how a library can wield its budget to achieve its mission and better understand its operation and impact. To achieve this, the book opens with a chapter on planning, specifically strategic and financial planning. This chapter, coupled with the second chapter, seeks to establish a clear understanding about what you might be working with and toward. Although these are the only chapters that call out planning by name, the reader will find that most of the rest of the chapters incorporate planning as a key driver behind each of the topics covered.

Budgets and budgeting are heavily covered in the next four chapters. The reader may initially think that this is common knowledge and you have been doing this for years. In the case of Dugan and Hernon’s book, they do a deep dive into a wide range of ways in which budgets can be created. The benefits and challenges of each are discussed, making sure to relate them to the academic library experience. With a clear understanding of how higher education and academic libraries work, the authors provide practical examples and scenarios. The chapter on program budgeting particularly benefits from the authors’ knowledge and the concrete examples to which readers will be able to relate.

The last four chapters of the book take a step up to provide the reader with a higher-level perspective on the importance of planning and budgeting. First, the authors explore the many ways in which academic libraries are able to communicate their stories through internal and external reporting of their financial data. Although some reporting may be controlled and structured by an outside agency, others give the academic library unique opportunities to be flexible in how the information is reported. This is an excellent segue into the next chapter on uses of expenditure data. In this chapter, the data becomes an important component to communicating the value of the academic library, albeit from a financial point of view. Return on investment is also looked at in this chapter. The importance of understanding your financial data and the message a library wants to impart with it becomes really clear in chapter 9 as the authors provide scenarios associated with budget reductions. These scenarios, based on actual institutions, also show how, even during economically challenging times, an academic library can benefit from linking planning to budgets.

Throughout the book, the reader will find that the subtitle of the book is really what the book covers. From chapter to chapter, the reader is constantly brought back to the message that planning and budgeting are significantly linked by data. This is a symbiotic relationship where planning data impacts the budget, and budget data impacts the planning. The fact that the authors have done an excellent job of communicating this intertwined message makes for an easily understood text. To aid in understanding this book, along with the examples and scenarios, the authors have provided a wide array of charts, templates, and tables. Many of them hold real data to which the reader can compare their own information. At the end of each chapter, there are notes and bibliographies. The authors also pose a series of questions at the end of the chapters, with the answers in an appendix at the end of the book. This gives the allusion that it is a textbook, although it is just as much a significant resource for any academic librarian who works with library finances. Academic librarians across all areas would also benefit from reading this book, because it provides a degree of transparency into how one’s own institution may be driving its financial picture.—Mark Shelton, College of the Holy Cross

Copyright Mark Shelton


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