On a long Election Night filled with tension and political upset, 79 libraries across the country had referenda on the ballot. The news for libraries was more good than bad. At press time, 54 had recorded wins and 12 losses, with the remainder either not applicable—representing votes to leave a district, for instance—or still too close to call.
When working with political campaigns for EveryLibrary, we are often asked to identify the most important digital tactic for winning campaigns and advocating for libraries. Many of the people who ask expect us to talk about best practices using Facebook or Twitter to reach the public. They are usually surprised to hear we still believe email is the absolute most important tool for digital campaigns. This is true because email is still fundamentally the key to the Internet. Your library’s biggest goal in digital and in-person strategy should be the acquisition of email addresses.
On August 8 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, announced that it will provide its Analytics on Demand (AOD) service to EveryLibrary, a national nonprofit political action committee for libraries, free of charge, so that it may better analyze data about library supporters in advance of the November elections and on an ongoing basis for future campaigns.
On March 15, the Plainfield Public Library District (PPLD), IL, failed to pass two referenda—a bond measure and a property tax increase—needed to raise money for a new library building. The ticket fell victim to a Vote No campaign consisting of mailers and last-minute robocalls funded by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a right-wing super PAC (political action committee) with an antitax agenda. Behind AFP lies tens of thousands of dollars from the billionaire Koch brothers, lifelong Libertarians who heavily oppose taxes, social services, and industrial oversight, among other government functions.
New Orleans voters went to the polls on May 2 and showed their love for their library system, approving a raise in property taxes that will add up to $8.2 million a year for the New Orleans Public Library (NOPL). A whopping 75 percent of voters approved—a margin of more than 9,000 votes. Starting in January 2016, the 25-year, 2.5-mill property tax increase will allow some branches to extend operating hours to seven days a week, and will help rebuild the 7th Ward’s Nora Navra Library, damaged in Hurricane Katrina.
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 was overjoyed when John Chrastka emailed to tell me about EveryLibrary, the new political action committee (PAC) he had just created. EveryLibrary will raise funds nationally and spend them on local library ballot initiatives like tax rates, bonds, and other referenda. It is difficult to understand why none of us in the profession nor our organizations did this decades ago.