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Participatory Management

Jefferson County Public Library

Problem Statement

Historically, JCPL has utilized a top-down budget process. Managers had little or no experience with bottom-up budgeting and they had no bottom-line accountability. Since Marcellus Turner was named executive director in 2008, he has worked to bring managers into the budgeting process. This is especially critical now, when JCPL is experiencing annual revenue reductions.


MT is moving managers into business unit budgeting. In 2009, JCPL held a series of workshops to educate managers on the Library’s budgeting process. In 2010, we held a Budget Summit for the Combined Management Team (CMT). This was a two-day exercise designed to involve front-line and administrative managers in planning for an expected $1.5 million shortfall in 2011. The purpose of the exercise was three-fold: i) to help managers understand the system-wide priorities of JCPL; ii) to provide a professional development opportunity for managers and iii) to begin to engage front-line managers in the budgeting process. Many of the ideas presented at the Budget Summit were subsequently adopted. Last year, managers also received historical budget data for their respective business units, with a 2011 expense projection. Managers have now been asked to track and monitor actual expenses vs. plan to get a feel for expense management. In March 2011, we held a second Budget Summit, to identify system-wide strategic priorities for 2012 and brainstorm ways to fund new initiatives while reducing overall expenses by another $1.5 million.


Managers have handled our budget challenges exceptionally well, often sacrificing personal agendas for the good of the whole. By empowering our managers, we are encouraging them to think strategically. This has had a very positive impact on employee morale; in fact, the process has engendered creative thinking, collaborative problem-solving and a positive approach to a negative situation. We plan to continue this discussion through monthly CMT meetings and a collaborative online site, where managers can share ideas on how to reduce the library’s cost structure while maintaining a meaningful program of service. The ultimate goal is for managers to begin to build their own budgets for 2012.