One of the most important obligations of the board is to make certain that sufficient funding is available to operate the library properly. Each board member should know the library's financial background; the unit(s) of government allocating the local appropriation; the entire resources of local tax monies and the library's fair share; grants available from all sources (government and private foundations); and any other possible sources of support. (For example: a bond issue, endowments, gifts, donations, fines and fees.)

A budget is an expression of the library's plan and objectives in financial terms. Therefore, before a budget can be formulated, the plan for library services must be developed and the goals and objectives established. If the community is involved in the planning process, the library and its plan will be supported throughout the community. However, the library's budget must be realistic. The library is, after all, only one of many services provided by the unit of government. If the budget requires a substantial increase in funding, the board should investigate other possible funding sources. Funding from such other sources as federal monies should be considered supplemental and never as a means of lowering local appropriations. The local appropriations must be at least large enough to provide the minimum level of public library service acceptable to the community. Other funds should be used to supply services and materials over and above this level. The following list classifies the responsibilities of trustees and librarian:

Study, amend if necessary, and approve the annual library budget request.
Prepares annual budget that clearly states the amount of money needed, the services and materials which will be provided with the money, and the priorities among the various library services.
Present, along with the librarian, the budget to the appropriate governing body.
Presents the budget to the appropriate governing body along with members of the library board.
Approve acceptance of gifts and government or private grants.
Prepares a final line item budget for consideration of the board.
Adopt a final line item budget based on the budget allocation approved by the governing body.
Reports regularly to the library board concerning expenditures and budget status.

The Budgeting Process

The following is a brief outline of the steps involved in preparing a budget:
  1. Formulation of the library budget is primarily compiled by the library director and staff. This first step in preparation of the planned budget should include various approaches to achieving the goals and objectives that are feasible in terms of anticipated resources. The approaches should then be ranked according to their priority and available funds.
  2. In the second step, the formulated budget must be presented to the board. The library director must explain the budget in depth so that it can be discussed. All anticipated questions that the community may ask should be taken into consideration during the discussion. If problems should arise, changes must be made. Board members must be well informed and prepared to answer any and all budget questions which may arise.
  3. The third step involves obtaining the good will of the community. If the library has been a needed part of the community, and the community has taken an active interest in the library, public support should be in favor of the planned budget. However, precautions must be taken to counteract existing anti-tax sentiment through the use of the news media. Budget discussions must be open to everyone: the general public, the press, Friends, and government officials. To make certain all segments of the community are represented, invitations must be made both publicly and privately.
  4. During the final stage, when the budget is presented to the proper allocating officials, board members must accompany the library director to present the budget. If the budget is to be approved, officials must see the board as a representative body of taxpayers.
  5. Adopt a line item operating budget.

No specific budgeting system can be recommended because the library's accounting system must comply with that used by the governing body. The budget should be detailed enough to assure the authorities that the money will be spent in compliance with the agreement. However, a too detailed budget will result in money being tied up in accounts for extended periods of time.