Pledge To Vote For Libraries
In the upcoming weeks we will witness one of the most talked about elections of our generation, one which has only been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown everyone for a loop and have all had to learn how to adapt to the new environment that 2020 has brought. Libraries are no different. Faced with the challenge of continuing to provide resources to patrons and ensuring the community gets access to what they need, libraries and librarians have employed a vast array of creative ideas.
EveryLibrary, the non-profit organization dedicated to building voter support for libraries and advocating in support of public funding for libraries, is announcing a call for donations to aid libraries on the ballot this election cycle. In each election cycle, tens of millions of dollars are at stake for libraries - from bonding for new or remodeled building projects to changing millages, levies, or taxes that impact staffing, collections, programs, and services. Libraries across the nation are thriving, but often their funding is at stake during election cycles. EveryLibrary provides critical free assistance to libraries to help them gain voter support when it matters.
Every $10 we raise helps us reach 1,000 more Americans who care about libraries this election cycle.
In addition to working around recent budget constraints and the growing needs of communities for technology and materials, libraries in the COVID age have their work cut out for them. Earlier in the year, many libraries across the country and the world were subject to stay-at-home orders required by the government. Librarians reworked their systems and procedures so that they could continue serving the community, expanding resources, and preparing for when libraries would be allowed to allow in-person interactions again.
“EveryLibrary’s track record of success building voter support for libraries means that we can quickly put smart donor money to work on a new scale to reach people who care about their communities, their schools, and their neighbors but who haven’t been activated for libraries before,” said John Chrastka, Executive Director for EveryLibrary.
How EveryLibrary Supports Libraries
- Assisting in both the planning and campaign stages of an initiative.
- Providing strategic consulting services, voter segmentation advice, and assistance in developing ballot language.
- Conducting feasibility studies and assisting in setting up a local committee.
- Providing free tools, data, and digital support to the ballot committee.
- Developing a fundraising strategy for local committees.
- Training volunteers in voter education and get-out-the-vote techniques.
Library boards across the country are asking voters to consider new funding for operations, collections, programs, and services. There are tremendous pressures on local budgets during COVID. Responsible library leaders are looking to local ballot measures like levys, parcel taxes, and operating referendums to ensure stability of services. In Portage County, OH, the library is asking voters to establish a first-ever local levy to fund the library. Currently, the library operates on state aid only, which is being cut dramatically due to COVID economic slowdowns. In Bay City, Michigan, a 1.75 mil request is on the ballot to restart local funding for basic operations after a similar 2 mil proposal was defeated in 2019.
Even during COVID, library leaders are looking beyond the pandemic social distancing to improve and expand library spaces. For example, in Woodstock, New York, voters are considering a $5.8 million bond measure to build a new library in their historic downtown. In Multnomah County, Oregon where Portland area voters are being asked to approve a $387 million bond to enlarge and renovate 8 branches and build a new “flagship” library. Technology and space upgrades will matter a great deal in the post-COVID world where the way we work, play, and learn needs appropriate spaces and supports.
We are closely tracking several statewide initiatives that will impact funding for both public libraries and school library programs. Across New Mexico, voters are being asked to approve the biennial “GoBond for Libraries”. This statewide funding measure provides supplemental funding to public and school libraries, and the state library, to improve and enhance services that local communities otherwise cannot afford. In Arizona, Prop 208, the Invest in Education Act, would provide new funding for education in the state and specifically name school libraries as a component of the funding formula. California voters and Colorado voters both have changes to the way property taxes are collected or capped in their states. Local governments, including libraries, need a more flexible and fair approach.
Donations support direct contributions to local library campaigns and enables EveryLibrary to provide services to libraries at no cost. Money from donors is used to provide national voter education about the importance and impact of libraries. For every $1 spent on a political campaign for a library, $1600 is returned to libraries so they can continue their mission of supporting the educational advancement of the communities they serve.
One campaign that EveryLibrary is directly supporting this November is the Portage County Library in Ohio. Preliminary forecasts for 2021 show a $300,000 shortfall to the library system’s annual $2 million budget. According to library director Jonathan Harris, “Our system came out of the 2009 recession with one fewer branch. While we helped our patrons through those tough times, the recovery never made its way back into the library budget. Right now we’re trying to help our patrons through this current crisis, but after decades of financial neglect, we need this support to give our communities the services they depend upon.”
Since the pandemic struck last spring, the state revenues are projected to be off by as much as 2 percent. For libraries across the county, there are simply not many places left where they can make budget cuts. New revenue from voter approved measures is necessary. Harris adds, “If the levy fails to pass this time, we will need to consider drastic cuts to services, which could include further reduced operating hours or closing a branch.”
How Can You Make a Donation?
“We started EveryLibrary as a political action committee because we believe firmly that every library does matter and that America’s librarians should have the right resources to serve their communities and their campuses,” stated Patrick Sweeney, political director of EveryLibrary.
Donations made to Libraries 2020 protect a time-honored pillar of society. With help from generous donors, EveryLibrary helps ensure that libraries are thriving, not just surviving beyond 2020.