Interview with Tracey Leger Hornby

Tracey Leger-Hornby is an independent consultant with over 30 years of leadership and expertise in libraries and technology, primarily in higher education. Her previous positions include Dean of Library Services at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Associate CIO at Brandeis University, Library Director at Rivier University, and several positions in the library and academic technology at Simmons College. Recently, as a consultant, Tracey served as interim Head Librarian at the Worcester Public Library and Interim Director of Research and Instruction at Wheaton College. She is currently working with the Massachusetts Library Association on their long-term strategic plan. Her interests include library management issues, application of new technology in libraries, and business process improvement. Tracey teaches a class for us, titled Academic Library Budgets 101. She agreed to do an interview here, to give people a bit more of an idea of what she brings to teaching and what you can expect from her class.

Tracey, thanks for agreeing to do this interview.

Thanks for this opportunity Rory, I look forward to talking with you.

I’d like to start by asking you to summarize your philosophy as a teacher on topics related to library management, and how that philosophy has evolved.

My educational background is in teaching. My undergraduate degree is in secondary education and I’ve always seen myself as someone who can help others learn about new things. In my early career in librarianship I taught many classes on using new (at the time) technology and I’m excited to be able now to use technology to teach. My philosophy is based on providing a supportive structure for students to gather information and then put it to good use to achieve a goal or complete a task. The course I’ve developed on academic library budgets is designed to make students successful in creating simple spreadsheets but also understand what’s behind the numbers.

Can you give us a little detail on what you cover in the class?

Sure. The goal is to get a running start on how to set up a budget if you’ve never done that before. I start the class by asking all students to find a summary budget of their library and to look at the big picture of spending. Where does the money go? Then I ask students to learn about the process of securing funding and the budget cycle through readings (for theory) and interviewing a colleague in the financial offices on campus (for practical application). Where does the money come from? We then work on creating a draft budget proposal that covers not only the numbers (with some background data) but a written justification for those funds. What’s best practice for obtaining funding? Students share insights from each activity including suggestions for strengthening the final budget proposal.

Sounds very practical. You’ve taught this class previously for us. Can you tell us a bit about the experience? What was it like in general and what did you find surprising or interesting?

I had a really great experience for a first time through. I took a course from LJA myself on teaching online which was great and very helpful. I had taught many times face to face but this was my first fully online class. I found the students were engaged from the first week and very eager to ask questions and share experiences. It’s been my experience as a manager that gaining budget skills is important for advancement but it’s difficult to get a chance to learn the nitty gritty on the job. I’ve also heard that many people are intimidated by spreadsheets. I want to demystify the process as much as possible and think this class can help do just that. I was pleased to hear back from several students who were surprised they enjoyed the process of creating a budget so much fun.

That sounds great. I think that actually covers most of what I wanted to talk about, but I do have a final question that’s a little different. If you could teach some other courses for us, what would they be?

Thanks for asking Rory. I’ve been thinking about designing a class for new managers on basics of fundraising. Or perhaps one about writing job descriptions. These are things I’ve had to learn on the job or from generous colleagues in other departments on campus. I’m looking for things that could be helpful and make things easier for fellow librarians. It’s been fun teaching class online and meeting students from around the country and across the globe. I’m glad I’ve had this opportunity.

I’m glad you’ve been teaching for us. It is working really well having you aboard. Thanks for doing it and thanks for the interview.

Thanks again Rory. I’m glad that I am able to teach my budget class and I hope to develop more courses in the future. In the meantime, I look forward to meeting more students online.

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