January 2020

The Budget

It’s “budget time” again, as we prepare to report to the Provost on our work and make our annual budget request. As we’ve discussed throughout the year, budgetary relief has created a number of significant opportunities. I want to provide a brief update on those here, and to give you a status report on the annual budget process.


In addition to budget support from the Provost’s office, which allowed us to fund our highest priority requests in the last budget, we have new flexibility because we were shielded from new reductions. Among the high priority requests for which we received support were:

  • Additional funds for collection inflation (now allocated)
  • Funding for a chief diversity officer (position description underway)
  • Permanent staff funding for the Illinois Distributed Museum (Kristen Wilson, IDM Coordinator)
  • Funds to address the first increase in the minimum wage rate

With increased budget flexibility, we also initiated a process to fill additional new positions. That process was led by the AULs, with consultation with EC. In soliciting proposals from you, we asked that requests be aligned with the priorities we laid out in the strategic plan, and received a large number of outstanding proposals. We are prepared to move forward with funding nine of these. They are:

I was pleased by the process. People engaged in thoughtful and collaborative ways in crafting the proposals. A number of these proposals rose naturally to the top, and there was strong consensus between Library administration and EC on the most important positions for advancing our interests. As we all know, the budget pressures of the last few years have sometimes made our work challenging, and it’s my hope that this round of hiring will provide some needed relief.

Strategic and Innovative Initiatives

You will also recall that we allocated funds for strategic initiatives in the wake of the completed strategic plan and in parallel to the strategic hiring process. Again, we received many strong proposals. These were reviewed by the Executive Committee last week and EC recommended funding six of these, as well as four Innovation Fund proposals. They are:

FY21 Budget

As I mentioned, one of the factors that helped tee up all of these activities was our very successful budget request last year. As a result of that request, we received funding support and relief from the reductions we were asked to model. It is that time of year again: we have been given an early February deadline for our annual report and budget request. Library administration is hard at work on that report right now, and we expect to have a draft to the Executive Committee and the Senate Committee on the Library in mid-January. The guidelines look similar to what we’ve seen in recent years, with one very important difference: we are not being asked to model reductions this year. As always, we are being asked to find ways to reduce costs and reallocate, and we will endeavor to do that. 

For those of you tracking on the annual report and budget process, you’ll know that each year we’re asked to report activities as they relate to our strategic plan. Last year, in our report we noted that the strategic plan was underway, but that we believed we could reliably identify some likely elements. This year, thanks to all of you and your hard work, the strategic plan will play a pivotal role.

As a reminder the four areas of planning, which the campus used and which we piggyback on, are:

  • Being a proactive and trusted partner in scholarship, discovery and innovation
  • Developing transformative learning experiences
  • Fostering societal and global impact, and
  • Making strategic investments in a sustainable library environment.

In our introduction to the strategic plan, we talked about the need to develop and implement methods and strategies to measure services in order to improve them and to communicate their value to the University. This notion is incredibly important, and I will note that the Provost has asked us to incorporate at least four key performance indicators. Because of the tremendous groundwork you have laid, we will be able to speak about work underway in several areas (e.g., use of online resources and the impact of our instructional programs). Our report is also likely to highlight our work to adapt spaces to enhance academic success, our powerful collaborative relationships, and perhaps even our work to try to reshape the economics of publishing through new models of acquisition. There is much important work underway, and our greatest challenge will be in determining which things to highlight. I look forward to sharing the Library’s annual report and budget with you in the Spring after we meet with the provost.

John Wilkin
The Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian