Decentralization in California Libraries: An Approach to Budget-based Transparency and Accountability Initiatives

As publicly funded institutions, libraries have an inherent organizational value of being good, responsible stewards of public funds. However, the notion of “good” and “responsible” are subjective descriptions often reflecting the executive’s personal experience. Public service professional standards and financial auditing requires balanced budgets and an audited analysis of the fiscal year’s budget but little else. This paper will evaluate the history of transparency and accountability initiatives, with a particular focus on the use of decentralization within the state of California’s library program at the municipal/city and county levels of government. Evaluating city and county library systems budget and managerial documents the study will investigate the relationship between the government type, budget, transparency and accountability initiatives, decentralization, performance indicators, and perceived citizen participation. It is hypothesized a library department and branch level decentralized budget is a practical, useful tool and will assist in transparency and accountability initiatives by improving decision making, identifying practical performance indicators and assessments, and providing useful information for reviewing stakeholders.