Making Gucci Changes on a Gap Budget

This was my first year to manage a library budget completely on my own. I had a relatively healthy budget (you can always use more, right? :)) but at the same time, I knew that I had a ton of work to do to bring the library up to speed–new website, databases to add, purchasing EZProxy, Libguides, and oh yes, books! We needed print, eBooks, $1,000 in textbooks to complete the reserve collection, not to mention replacing a scarily amazing VHS collection with DVDs. I was like a first timer on safari, treading through tall grass…looking about wildly with each PO I filed and Visa bill that arrived, just waiting for May to come and some tiger…I mean, some annual renewal fee to jump out and bite me.

I proceeded with caution through Spring Break. May came. I looked around. I’d made it. Better yet, I had money left over. WHAT?!? <insert raise the roof interlude here>

Before the July 1 deadline, I decided to make some high impact physical changes to get my students’ attention, to improve the ambiance and technological usability of the library, and quite honestly,  to attempt to set us apart even more so from other student lounge/study areas around campus to improve marketability.

Here are some before and after shots of my strategy this summer (click on images to zoom in):

beforeafter1a beforeafter2 beforeafter3 beforeafter4 beforeafter5

Since I began last August, I have done an inward cringe each morning when I walked in to see all the mismatched chairs and furniture. It felt like my college apartment, like a garage sale treasure hunt gone horribly, horribly wrong. Thankfully, I had enough budget to swing for new chairs. I went for the super comfy Hon chair with arms that flow down for easy push up to tables of varying heights and seats that flip up like auditorium seats for easy stacking away if/when the library hosts events and needs to be more open. Cost for 33 chairs, 4 bar stools, and unbelievably expensive delivery and installation along with lifetime warranty: $8900.

I ordered 4 bar stool versions of the chairs to be used at our Research bar. I’m hoping to house the student tech support group this year and will give them a desk right behind the research bar. *Note, the research bar is just a high table in the reference section where kids can bring laptops to do work. We’re also adding a customized wall mounted charging station by the research bar so that students can charge while they study. Cost: $400.

How to add power to a 1960’s building without everyone falling over power strip cords? Retrofit existing tables with outlets/ports. I am lucky enough to have an amazingly tech savvy department chair who has a PhD in Civil Engineering…she is going to bring a saw and is going to retrofit the two round tables in the periodical corner with outlets and charging stations. Most facilities departments have an electrical specialist–this person could do this. Each table will have one cord that goes to the wall with a plastic strip covering to avoid trips.  Total cost $850.

Disclaimer: notice that I said “Gap budget” and not “Old Navy”, or better yet, “Goodwill”–how good would that be for the wallet and for the alliteration factor? These projects do add up, but if your space is as dated as mine and if your goal is to add features that aren’t readily available in other study centers around campus, maybe you will consider adding one or two? If you’re lucky enough to have matching furniture, well then good on ya. You’re already on your way to a high impact space that is not only usable, but a highlight of school tours.

What other low cost, high impact, physical changes might you suggest for the rest of us?

Wishing everyone an AMAZING start to your school year! Can’t wait to hear about all the cool things you have planned.

5 thoughts on “Making Gucci Changes on a Gap Budget

  1. Good for you for being proactive and making a big impact with a (relatively) small amount. Those rolling chairs are sure to make a huge difference in facilitating collaboration. Every other improvement supports your vision of a modern library, what I would call a thinker space rather than a maker space.

    • Thanks Allison! My conundrum re: including a physical maker space in our library is this–we have a membership to an amazing resource in downtown Troy, the Tech Valley Center of Gravity ( which is a Maker Space beyond your wildest dreams. What can/should I offer here that our students can’t walk down the hill to use there? Hmmm…I’m focusing on providing the tools for digital creation, for accessing and manipulating information, and *hopefully* inspiring the pursuit of new knowledge, but I’m leaving the 3D printing, knitting, woodworking, and tinkering to someone else for the time being. 🙂

  2. Congratulations on this! I especially like the replacement of the Captain’s chairs–way too big for the space.

    My biggest money saving ploy is to promote public library use–it helps us and it helps the public library because it builds their stats and increases their customer base.

    • I love your idea, Constance! Perhaps a field trip to the public library to get students signed up for library cards? I like that they can utilize the public library’s database collection as well. I’ll add this to my to-do list! To add to this idea, I am proposing a weekend activity for our boarding students to area university libraries. During heavy research times, we will offer a 4 hour study session (maybe arranging for a librarian there to welcome and show our students around, introduce them to resources they can use in-house, etc.) at area libraries. We are lucky to be just a few miles from RPI, Sienna, SUNY Albany, the College of St. Rose, etc.

  3. Great post, Katie! I love the new chairs. You definitely got the biggest possible bang for your buck, and I predict you will love walking into the library every day this year, with the fresh thought each day that YES! You fixed THIS! Two of your fixes are on my list as well– the moveable whiteboard and the charging stations. We check out chargers but it’s more trouble than it’s worth, maybe, as they’re so portable and go awol regularly. Sure we can bill and replace but, like I said… trouble.
    Thanks for the inspiration for changes that are not part of a total makeover. Very useful!

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