How to Make Your School Library Budget Stretch Further

In my view of a utopian society, every school library would have an unlimited budget to spend on books and equipment. Sadly, I don’t think this is ever going to happen. Most librarians and teachers are expert at stretching our funding to its very limits, but hopefully I can give you some more ideas to help.

Getting help from parents and local businesses

One thing I found to be very successful was creating an Amazon wish list for the school library, populated with students’ requests and with a good mix of books at prices to suit all budgets. Make sure that extra attractive genres and mediums such as graphic novels and exciting factual books (e.g. Guinness World of Records) are well represented. Publicise your list to parents, governors, PTA and local businesses. Traders are often happier to purchase books that can be shown in a picture and article in the local press than they are to give funds in a cheque - let’s face it, books are so much more photogenic!

You could ask parents to purchase books instead of sending in sweets for a child's birthday

In a primary school, you could ask parents to purchase a couple of books from the list instead of sending in sweets for a child’s birthday or, dare I say it, instead of buying presents for teachers at Christmas?! Letters going out to parents of leavers can bring in new books too, if the parents want to show their appreciation for their child’s learning at the school: this can work in secondary as well. If a book is purchased from the wish list putting a book plate inside with ‘kind donation from’ is usually appreciated.

Competitions and giveaways

The World Book Day site and Caboodle, the National Book Tokens site, run regular giveaways. There is a giveaway section on Goodreads that is very easy to use; you may not be lucky all the time, but as the saying goes, ‘you’ve gotta be in it to win it’! Also, publishing reviews from your students or yourself on the Toppsta website then entitles you to take part in their publisher giveaways. You can set up profiles for a group or class of children.

Most publishers regularly run book giveaways on social media sites, Twitter being the most popular, and often all you have to do is retweet and follow to be included. Good hashtags to watch are #bookgiveaway, #freebook, #giveaway, #bookbirthday. Alternatively, if you create a list of publishers on your Twitter account you don’t need to follow all of their accounts, you can just have a look at their tweets periodically to find out about any promotions they are running.

This is a much better idea than approaching publishers or authors directly for free books: I have heard of schools doing this and unfortunately it is not looked upon favourably.

Most publishers regularly run book giveaways on social media sites

Children’s author Maz Evans put out a tweet a few months ago offering to match up individuals who had children’s books to donate with schools needing them and she was completely overwhelmed with the response. She has now set up the Bookbuddy website to make this an ongoing benefit. You can sign up as a school to see if anyone in your area has donations or as a donor to give books away. There are over 400 schools registered on the site now but only a few of them are Scottish schools so it would be a good idea to sign up soon.

Scottish Book Trust also run a competition to win their Children's and Teens' Book of the Month. Check out the Reading blog strand to browse blog posts and find out if there's a competition open!

Applying for funding - trusts and charities

The Foyle Foundation gives grants for school library books and a proportion of any grant awarded can be used for furniture and equipment, although these elements should be a minority of the funds requested. Priority is given to primary schools. The Foundation does take into account local deprivation levels and current literacy levels in the school and preference is given to schools that can demonstrate that their library will continue to be maintained and renewed. 

The Siobhan Dowd Trust awards monthly book grants from the money earned through sales of the late author’s books. To apply you can email director Kate Powling explaining what you do as a school to encourage a love of reading. The Trust’s Twitter feed is awash with thank you messages from schools that have benefitted from these grants, and although the website is not updated that frequently, the grants are definitely continuing in 2018.

If you are refurbishing or building a new school library, you could enter the School Library Association’s biennial Inspiration Award for excellent library design. The next award will be announced in 2019 so keep an eye on the website for submission details later this year. Award sponsors Gresswell offer prize money of £750 for winners and £200 for the runners up.

I hope some of these ideas are helpful in making your budget a little more elastic, and if you have any other great money saving ideas please do add them in the comments.

Enjoyed this blog post from Bev? You can also read this one to find out how she gets people through the library door!

Bev Humphrey

If you're interested in literacy, Bev is a fantastic person to keep up with on Twitter or through her blog. She is a literacy, school libraries and technology consultant with 10 years' experience of working in school libraries, where she championed her passions for books and technology to inspire young readers. She is also the creator of The Write Path, an ongoing international collaborative writing project which was shortlisted for a TES New Literacy Initiative Award in 2009.