In a collection of old political campaign buttons I found a pink one with the number “321.8” across it in dark blue. The discovery triggered memories of activist times in librarianship four to five decades ago. In our view then, the Dewey number 321.8 was the classification for “participatory democracy,” the system of government in which our small cadre of librarians believed. We were one of dozens of groups that formed within the new Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association (ALA). We believed, as I still do, that good librarians are politically enmeshed in the larger national and international issues of war, peace, social justice, and the vital role of good government in human affairs. We even tried to convince our professional organizations publicly to support our positions and amplify our voice on these issues. Sometimes we were successful.
REFORMA (National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking) presented the first Elizabeth Martinez Lifetime Achievement Award to Sandra Ríos Balderrama at the at the Third Annual Denim and Diamonds Gala, a fundraising event for the REFORMA Educational Foundation, which was held at the 2014 American Library Association (ALA) Conference in Las Vegas. The award is named after one of the founding members of REFORMA, and was established to recognize excellence in librarianship, as well as substantial contributions to REFORMA and the Latino community.
South Carolina’s public library directors, confident they have the necessary votes in the state legislature locked up, plan to press ahead with efforts to see a library trespass bill adopted into law, even after a recent veto by Gov. Nikki Haley scuttled their hopes, at least temporarily.
The continuing struggle to fund library service in Miami, Florida, and surrounding Dade County took a happy turn for a librarians and advocates in this month. On Tuesday, July 16, Miami-Dade County commissioners voted to increase the property tax in the county slightly, increasing the funding available to the Miami-Dade Public Library System (MDPLS).
The hike would leave libraries with a budget of approximately $52 million for the coming year. That figure is short of the $64 million that advocates were aiming for, but represents a major step up from the $30 million earmarked earlier this year in a budget proposed by Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Most libraries know what its’ like to struggle with finding funding. Getting a levy or tax hike passed is hard work. Living through lean times that freeze hiring and stifle collection development can be trying. But when the rug gets pulled out from under you suddenly, it can be even worse. In order to provide some assistance when eleventh hour budget cuts come knocking, EveryLibrary, the political action committee devoted to strengthening the place libraries have at the civic table, is working on a new program with just these sorts of dilemmas in mind—the Rapid Response Fund.
I have a theory that too many library trustees are underutilized in their board work. In far too many libraries, fear of meddling and of losing control have meant that directors don’t take advantage of the expertise and talent on their Board of Trustees. Where that is true, library leaders are squandering critical capacity and losing a potent edge in the key task of connecting to the community.
Near the heart of a revitalized tech boom in Silicon Valley, San Jose, CA, is growing rapidly, topping one million residents this year. The San Jose Public Library (SJPL) will have plenty of concerns about how best to serve those new users in coming years. How to fund those efforts, though, won’t be among them. Earlier this month, San Jose voters passed a continuation of the Library Parcel Tax (LPT), which helps to fund SJPL operations, with an astonishing 81 percent of voters in favor.
Lobbying for libraries can be a painfully earnest affair. But not so in New York State, where the New York Library Association (NYLA) adopted a playful new strategy to reach legislators and their staffs where they may be at their most receptive—relaxing with a drink after work. NYLA didn’t break the rules by buying beverages for lawmakers…it simply provided a coaster for them.
While it may feel like the 2012 Presidential election cycle was not that long ago, we are already getting into the thick of the 2014 election cycle. Regardless of whether the decision-makers are at the federal, state, or local levels, they will be in a position to impact libraries. Thus, the questions for library supporters must be “which candidates actually care about libraries, and which are willing to put forward a plan of action to improve library services?”