Budget Q & A, Number 2

Q: I am finding it difficult to think 90%. What is hard for me is where to draw the line without knowing what priorities you have for the UCLA Library over the next two years. Can you provide me with guidelines or something like a vision statement for thinking in the 90% world?

A: Those of us who have gone through budget restructuring over the years here at UCLA or in other libraries have had to face this question before. It is hard to think in a shrinking environment. The phrases “do more with less,” “it’s just a paradigm shift,” “it’s a really bad year” are all things we have been told before. But it just doesn’t get any easier.

When I came to UCLA in 2003, we began a strategic planning process that would guide us out of the budget reductions that the library had faced in 2002-2003. Our next budget submittals were strategy based and luckily there was some new resource that came to the library which allowed us to begin to address some new directions. Within a couple of years of working with staff and our strategic planning task force, we issued a strategic plan (2006-2009) that everyone should have read and studied by now. Each unit is asked to develop annual work plans and every individual should have work plans as well. The strategic plan is our vision statement as it guides us in where we want the library to go. As I mentioned in an earlier post we are beginning to revise that plan (for 2010-13) and our work now on the 90% focus will help shape that plan.

At the same time, the campus is engaged in its first efforts of developing a UCLA vision and strategic plan. It appears that an academic plan will be produced during the next few months and this will help the Library tie into the campus plan more directly. But that should not stop us from setting our own destiny. In our current strategic plan we tied our focus to the vision set for by Chancellor Carnesale. We will do the same for Chancellor Block. One thing I do know is that we will be pushed to “do more with less.” What we choose to do is critical to our future success.

So it is really each of us thinking about what is important and how we relate to our common focus as we express it through our internal planning process.

Q: Who will make the decision about what is cut and what remains in the budget for 2009-10?

A: Ultimately the University Librarian will make the decision as to what is to be recommended to the campus. The Provost and the Chancellor ultimately make the final decision as to the overall budget for the campus within the guidelines set down by the Regents and the Office of the President.

But, the Library decides what to recommend. I still want every unit and unit managers to think about how to reduce their costs, and others should be considering how to do so as well. Units must think about the implications for other units in the library of the recommendations they are making so as not to shift work somewhere else without full consideration of the impact. Unit managers should be discussing proposed cost reductions with their AULs or the person to whom they report now so that these proposals are feeding into the broader thinking and discussions that are going on.

It is important for all of us to remember that we are doing a budget proposal that is part of a campus process and timeline. The Library’s proposal is due in February, so we will be getting into the detail planning soon after the new year. This allows time for folks to think about how they would change what they do, what they would stop doing, and how to prioritize their recommendations.

I can then make decisions to the greatest extent possible based on documented priorities.

Q: This fiscal year’s energy costs charged to the UCLA Library caught me by surprise. It didn’t make sense to me why campus would decide to charge us an incredible amount of money based on total square footage when the space within the UCLA Library that I consider to be ours is a fraction of that: the amount made up of library staff space. What strategies are you enlisting to address this issue? Are there public talking points that you would like us to use when we talk to UCLA faculty, staff, and students?

A: The reality is that the Library is the second largest holder of campus real estate, only behind the health sciences/hospital. We were able to negotiate a reduction in the square footage that the campus would use to calculate the charge back by recognizing central stack space and major reading rooms as well as the SRLF space as being “common good” space. The only other exception from the calculations are the general assignment classrooms. The fact is that we occupy a lot of space to house over 100 librarians and 400 staff and several hundred students at any one time. Our space at Kinross South alone exceeds what many departments have available for their use.As to the share for deferred maintenance, these costs are just not being covered by UCOP so must now be born by the campus. It was a campus decision to allocate those costs on the same square footage basis. I expect that we will continue to have long discussions about this in the next few months. But the reality is that these are the costs and they must be paid. Do keep in mind that these are not “one time” allocations. It appears that we will be asked to make these permanent in next year’s budget.

I would be cautious as you speak with faculty as their departments do not have any relief from these costs. They pay the full allocation based on the square footage that they occupy.

I hope this is helpful and very much appreciate your questions as we move forward.

Q: We’ve been through these budget reductions before. Won’t we recover in a short time and then everything will be okay again?

A: From the projections from the State Legislative Analyst, this downturn will be deeper and longer than it has been in recent memory. We need to be very careful about the options we explore for it may be some time before there are funds to recover.

One Response to “Budget Q & A, Number 2”

  1. Lisa McAulay says:

    I’m very grateful for our strategic plan in a tough budget situation, and I’m glad it covers 2009. An effective strategic plan should help guide our budget in thick and thin times. However, I think our strategic plan is very forward-looking and some of the goals might be looking expensive at this point. Still, I think that’s where we’re striving to be and it’s a good guide for us.

    With a little trepidation, I’d like to poke at our “90% opportunity” phrase. While the sentiment is good, I think it’s a little too rhetorically cute. I like the emphasis on thinking positively, and I think it’s important to notice that 90% is a large percentage. For instance, if you got a 90 on a hard test, you’d be happy. But think about the services and resources we offer to our patrons and think of offering just 90% of what we do now, it’s not as pleasant. It will be a painful change and in part it’s good to talk about the negative aspect in order to face it with a positive outlook.

    As we enter the holiday season, I’m very grateful to have a great job and be working for UCLA, an institution that works in so many ways to bring education and important research to the rest of the world. The national and state economies are in poor condition and I think as an organization and as individuals we will all feel the stress and hardship in many different ways, but I know we are a strong and resourceful group and I’m looking forward to years of continued excellence.

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