Over the years in public library service I have been dismayed at a rather cavalier attitude toward budgets and money by many librarians. I have to blame library school for a bit of this attitude. Very few courses addressed the impact of budgets and limited funding in a way that adequately prepares people for functioning in a real world library. No library (at least that I know about) has unlimited funds and a blank check for collections or staff. The disconnect comes when we communicate with our public, students, faculty and others we serve about the realities of limited resources. It is time to change how we talk about money and budgets.
First recommendation: Drop the word "FREE" whenever we speak or write about library service. In no way are services free. Taxpayers have paid for the service or students have paid tuition. Books and databases cost money. Programming costs money. Computers cost money. We don't work for free (even if it feels like it!). When library staff use the word free it confuses the message that library service doesn't cost anything or worse yet, it isn't worth anything. When librarians are at a moment of service with a student or patron and they are greatful for the help, it is time to remind them tuition and or taxes helped pay for this. Remind your clientele where the money comes from.
Second recommendation: Know how much everything costs in a library. Librarians probably know this but they need to know in a way that communicates knowledge of the library operation and that tells the public that they are "on top" of the money situation. Know the budget for materials backwards and forwards. Know the cost of any major renovation or major upgrade. If we hesitate or waffle in answers about costs and budgets, public confidence in library management can start to erode.
If all of this money talk scares you, develop some talking points about the collection. Make a list of budget facts that you can memorize that will help explain to your service population the realities of money in a library. Regardless of the library, all librarians should be ready to talk the talk of budgets and money. So try some of these ideas: Know how much a popular database or major reference item costs. Be able to quote average costs of certain parts of the collection (ie fiction, audio books, software). Be able to talk about how much a site license costs for a computer or the ILS for the library. Be able to talk about how your particular library is funded.
When you can talk about costs and budgets in a professional manner you are laying good groundwork for the next budget "problem" or millage request. Constantly reminding people of the value helps everyone in library service.