Submitted by Bill Warren
As mentioned in a Collection Development report in a recent LISt, we have adopted a new fund structure for the library-materials budget, as of the start of the new fiscal year. We heretofore had two large parallel sets of funds, one for discretionary purchases (one-time purchases), and the other for continuing obligations (subscriptions, etc.). Each of these sets had a separate fund for each subject area. For example, we had a Biology discretionary fund (“biodi”) and a Biology continuing fund (“bioco”), and so on, for each of our subjects. In all, we had well over 100 separate funds.
We decided to stop allocating funds by subject, and have only a single fund for all discretionary purchases, and a single fund for all continuing obligations (with the exception of a couple of endowed funds, which we wanted to keep separate). In order for payments after the changeover to be applied against the new funds, we had to figure out a way to change the old fund in each of our outstanding order records (that is, order records that are not closed or completed) to one of the new funds.
We have two basic categories of order records. The first is for discretionary (one-time) purchases. When an order record is created, an estimated price is entered, which encumbers (sets aside) that sum in the appropriate fund. When the item is received and paid for, the money set aside is disencumbered and paid out, and the order is closed. The second type of order, for continuing commitments (subscriptions), operates differently. No estimated price is entered, and thus no money is encumbered. Each annual renewal, or each successive volume received, is invoiced against this same order record, which can be used for a number of years, rather than one having to create a new order record for each annual renewal or new volume. At the time of the changeover to the new fund structure, we had about 5,000 orders outstanding: either orders for one-time purchases that had not been received, or continuing orders for subscriptions.
Unfortunately, it is normally not possible to globally change the funds in order records, to avoid the danger of inadvertently wreaking widespread financial havoc within the acquisitions system. The only exception is that during the course of one of three fiscal closing procedures (the process of closing out the accounts for one fiscal year and starting the new fiscal year), wholesale changing of funds in outstanding order records is allowed.
This fiscal closing method is not the one we normally use, and is not really designed for the purpose we had in mind, but documentation and the experience of others indicated that it would accomplish our end.
So, as part of the fiscal-close process, we undertook to change all our outstanding orders from their original subject fund to the appropriate new fund, which meant changing the orders attached to over 50 old discretionary funds to the single new all-inclusive discretionary fund, and doing the same with all outstanding continuing orders. Readers will be spared numbing detail; suffice it to say that the process worked only partially, and was considerably more labor-intensive and tedious than we had hoped. The funds in outstanding discretionary orders were converted to the new fund, but encumbrances were not carried forward, and had to be reconstructed. To our dismay, the funds were not converted for the continuing orders, which unfortunately is the far-more-numerous category: about 4,000 outstanding records. Since global update could not be used, the funds had to be changed manually, one by one. Happily, a number of volunteers came forward, including a couple from outside our department (our fervent thanks go to Mike Lynch and Joe Toth) and in a frenzy of creating lists and editing records the group converted all the continuing order records to their new fund in a single morning. The changeover is now complete, and we are operating with the two new all-inclusive funds.