Ask an Agent: How Do You Get Tech on a Small Budget?

askanagent2You’ve got questions,  we’ve got answers! Our volunteer Agents are on the job! Here’s what they have to say this week….

Question: What do you do for smaller libraries that have little to no tech,but high interest? What is the process to obtain a budget for more tech availability at a library? What kind of questions do you ask, or how do you present it to a supervisor?

 Wendy (Cullman High School) says:

There are SO many companies and government agencies out there that go through so much hardware, getting clued in to their replacement cycle and establishing yourself as a recipient for useful tools might be a good first step. I’d go to Rotary, Toastmaster, Kiwanis, etc. and let your needs be known.

If you are looking for more bells-and-whistles toys to play with, you might be able to, depending on library policies, set up an Amazon wishlist or crowdsourcing appeal. Again, I think this is mostly about communicating your needs, having a clear vision for what you will do with technology and can help your community
Christie (TSU) says:

Take a look at what you want to do, what you needs are, and make a plan with baby steps, middle steps and long term steps. Talk to your manager or your supervisor and see if they’re even aware of what your wants and needs are- it may seem like a silly thing but sometimes they may not know what you want to do or what you need to get things rolling.

Take a look at what is out there for free and what you have at your fingertips. There are a lot of online resources that you can use for tech programs depending on what exactly you’re talking about: if you want to teach actual programming languages search for code academy or scratch, or if you’re looking at robotics programs search for cheap robotics and look at what is needed for things like brushbots or legotype robots. Some of these types of robots you can make with basics from a dollar store and a motor from the local hardware store. Ask your staff or patrons for donations for the basics and use your budget for the more technical aspects.

Talk to your city’s or system’s IT department and see what they have lying around- there might be a ton of “outdated” equipment that is perfectly good for what you want to do sitting in a closet somewhere. You can use older monitors and PCs for coding programs and tech programs with a little ingenuity.

Take a look at your donation policies for your library and see what the other departments in your library are doing- if no one has gone around to the tech stores or the big box stores asking for tech and don’t have any plans for asking, go in person to each and every one with a specific plan. Map out what you want, what you plan on doing with it, and how it will be implemented in your library programming- you’ll get a lot farther with stores and local companies if you can say, “I would like X for this program because we hope to engage 40 teens every week and these are the benefits” rather than “What can you give me for the teens?”

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for grants and apply for each and every one that you can think of. You may think it’s a shot in the dark but it never hurts and if you win one it’s a huge bump in publicity for your library and a huge win for your teens and your programs.


Thanks to our volunteer agents for the awesome answers. If you have a question about anything teen services related ask it here! Your question will be featured on the blog with answers from our agent volunteers or TSU team members. If you’d liked to be a volunteer agent, please submit your info here.

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