We’ve never used formulas to do budget allocation at my library. I’ve been looking into the situation and examining various formulas. William H. Walters had a good article in last October’s Library Resources & Technical Services (v. 51, no. 4) espousing regression analysis to develop allocations.
Most formulas allocate to subjects or departments based on various factors like enrollment, number of faculty, circulation, and publishing volume. My problem with most formulas, however, is that they assume these various factors to be unproblematic. At my university they are all quite problematic.
Enrollment: we have a lot of undeclared students, but we also have a lot of students who have declared for a particular college but not a particular department. Do I count them at all? How? We also have a lot of students declared in interdisciplinary programs. In which department do we counted them?
Faculty: while we’re talking about interdisciplinarity, a lot of faculty also serve multiple departments. Really, I’m not even sure what the term department means anymore. They are constantly being changed and reshuffled at my university. What’s here today is gone tomorrow. Several of our departments are a hodge-podge of disciplines anyway: Department of Languages, Philosophy, and Speech Communication. Say what? Or Department of Plants, Soils, and Climate. Can I ever compile objective and meaningful publishing data for a department like that?
Publishing data: When I look at publishing data, it is primarily based on LC classification or general subject groups (as used in the Bowker Annual). How do I shoehorn one of our departments into those groups or classifications? Just the two departments I mention above, LPSC and PSC, are a nightmare to match to LC classification or Bowker subject.
Radical idea: don’t do any subject allocation. Just put all the money in one pot, give librarians a selection assignment, and let them have at it. I could run reports periodically and tell them to either speed up or slow down their ordering. We would try to keep track of new materials based on the LC classification. It will never fly, but I guy can dream, can’t he?