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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Effects of the 2008 Icelandic Economic Recession on Libraries-- Article Review



As a current school librarian, managing a budget for my Media Center is both a blessing and a curse. I can manage money in the sense of spending it on the acquisition of materials that my students will enjoy, but then I worry about the accounting procedures. In the end, the biggest question is still and will forever be looming over my head--Will the library have enough money?

Iceland’s 2008 economic recession is quite similar to the one that also occurred in America and the results were just as catastrophic to budget spending, especially when it comes to libraries.

Between December, 2011 and April, 2012 the most noticed considerable cutbacks occurred in about a quarter of public libraries. Cuts differ between the anonymous libraries, but operational expenditures were the cause of strain on the budget. With the cost of keeping the library open rising, cuts had to be made within collection allocation and staffing. “45 percent of all the libraries show reductions of 30 percent or more. The highest level being over 70%” (Tryggvadottir, 2013).  

To better understand the effects that recessions have on libraries (because honestly, I’m unfortunately ignorant to the economics of such things), let’s take a look at two factors that would further explain what in the world is going on.

Employment
The participating libraries in this study recorded having a total of 225 employees in 2007. This number has a slight, yet steady decrease with having 218 employees in 2008, 216 in 2009, 209 in 2010, and 200 in 2011. Even though the math results in an average 11.111% decrease over the span of 4 years, the study does not mention what positions were eliminated, or how that affected overall productivity of the library. Wouldn’t this information be essential to how effective libraries were during this time frame?

Another aspect that I noticed while reading was that a large amount of changes were made in 2010, almost two years after the main events of the recession. Why did this occur? And again, wouldn’t this information be helpful in developing a more rounded idea of libraries’ effectiveness?

Materials
An obvious effect of the recession on a library would be the cuts made in collection allocation budgets. These budgets are evaluated yearly and reassessed so that libraries can maintain thorough collections that are relatable to their patrons. With budget cuts, collections run the risk of losing diversity, and being driven by popularity, which could become quickly out of date. Materials that also support local schools’ curriculums are also in dire need, but are often cut, thus resulting in a decrease in use by school age patrons. Lacking of school-age materials can also lead to a reduction of these patrons’ willingness to read, in turn resulting in negative effects on literacy. “Reading comprehension is generally decreasing among elementary school children...a clear connection has been shown between reading comprehension and students’ interest in reading books” (Tryggvadottir, 2013).


So, with these budget setbacks, and my previous experience with budgeting a school library, how are libraries in Iceland still able to fully serve their population of literary loving patrons?

To answer this, I will investigate the following:
-size of public library’s space, collection and staff
-annual budget for collection allocation
-programming sessions provided by the library
-role in the surrounding cultural community

The methods for investigating this will include tours of the facilities, interviews with staff members, and collection of statistics that will support analysis of searching goals.

Let the fun begin! :)


Works Cited

Tryggavadottir, E. (2013). Effects off economic recession on Icelandic libraries. Scandinavian Library Quarterly, 46(1).

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