Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spending money?

We have somehow ended up with a largish budget for our library funds this year. I have guesses as to why this is so, but no one really knows what is up or has been able to answer why the budget is larger than usual. However, I strongly believe that the excess is temporary and will be gone next year, so purchasing more journals or database access (which we probably need) is not a good choice, as that would be a recurring cost.

I'm on the committee which makes requests to the library for new acquisitions. Despite the likelihood of losing some of the funding next year, I actually have requested some database access anyway, but mostly I'm requesting books. The collection for mathematics is actually not too bad; previous committee members have made some excellent selections, and while the collection is not huge by any measure, it is of good quality. (Most the the "classic" books that I thought should be in the library turned out to already be in the library when I first looked into this last year, which pleasantly surprised me.) However this leaves me with a difficulty: How do I spend the rest of this excess money? I have not gotten many responses from the department from my e-mail asking for requests, so I'm largely on my own.

If there were a large backlog of standard works that every library should have that we were missing, this would be easy to solve. If I could safely request more periodicals and databases, again I would have no problem. If lots of people in the department responded to my request for suggestions, again it would be easy. Instead I end up poring through catalogs and lists of reviews and trying to determine which are the good books that are worth getting. In some cases, I'm trying to make judgments (usually from reviews) about whether a book in a field I know almost nothing about is any good. Usually this is not too bad, since in any year a few hours of perusal can generate a list of a dozen or so books that are highly recommended. But when the budget is larger, this takes much longer to do.

Not using all of the funds would be a bad idea. It might result in the regular budget getting cut. (If the larger budget actually continues next year, I'll be ecstatic; we'll assume it's permanent and can expand our journal selection accordingly.)

All of this leaves me with the peculiar sensation of trying to meet a deadline for spending large amounts of money, which sounds easier than it is. (OK, I guess if I just wanted to spend the money and didn't care what it was on, I could make a list really quickly, but it seems pointless to me to get a bad book just because the budget it large. Instead, I have to make a few hundred really good selections.)

I never want to look at another book review again.

No comments: