At EveryLibrary and LJ, we tracked 184 library elections in 2016. Nationwide, over 3.7 million voters cast a ballot in what turned out to be the most contentious election cycle of a generation. Libraries won and lost in blue cities and red counties alike.
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.
In 2015, nearly 150 libraries in 24 states held referenda to renew or enact taxes for operations, staffing, or facilities. More than 1.1 million voters showed up at the polls in 2015 to decide on tax measures for their libraries. Just over 650,000 people voted yes and nearly 470,000 voted no. Of the 148 library ballot measures we have identified (through news reports, surveys, and direct involvement of EveryLibrary, the national library PAC the authors work for), 127 were won and 21 lost. One, while technically passing, actually rolled back the library’s funding, making it, in our opinion, a loss.
On the face of it, 2014 looks like it was a pretty good year for libraries at the ballot box: some 148 libraries reporting for this tally won and 42 lost. About 78% of libraries passed funding, bonds, or authority measures in 2014. Over 1.7 million Americans voted yes for their libraries. Only 22% lost. While unfortunate, it doesn’t seem tragic or perilous. But at EveryLibrary, we’re worried about the 1.1 million Americans who voted no this year.
EveryLibrary is creating a new twist on the saying “think globally, act locally.” The new political action committee (PAC), a non-partisan 501c4 organization, will raise funds nationally and spend them in support of local library ballot initiatives like taxes, bonds, and referenda. It will also serve as a political campaign consultancy for libraries. “EveryLibrary is […]
Libraries sharing buildings with centers of recreation and learning report that their partners bring exposure to new users. Libraries are also forming partnerships to share buildings with other agencies focused on education, such as colleges and historic societies. In the East Bay Area of California, the Lafayette Library and Learning Center building is shared by the library and the Glenn Seaborg Learning Consortium, a partnership of 12 education, science, and arts institutions.
The referenda landscape of 2011 was punctuated by strong voter support to keep library doors open—but little more. Libraries took a cue from three long years of budget cuts, a struggling economy, dwindling consumer confidence, and weary taxpayers and ventured out to voters with markedly restrained requests.
By Beth Dempsey Despite tough antitax sentiment, libraries win 87% of operating and 55% of building referenda Amid a bitter political climate, punctuated by the rise of a virulent antitax group, voters overwhelmingly entrusted their libraries with their tax dollars in referenda held between December 1, 2009, and November 30, 2010. Operating revenue measures passed […]
By Beth Dempsey Libraries win 84% of operating and 54% of building referenda in 2009 Despite the grim economic circumstances in 2009, voters delivered an overwhelming vote of confidence to their local libraries. In fact, 84 percent of all operating referenda passed nationwide. Just a few of the successes: in Michigan, where the unemployment rate […]
By Beth Dempsey Strategies from 2008 for an even tougher 2009 Could there be a worse time to ask voters for money to support libraries? America in 2008 was distinguished by a rapidly downward-spiraling economy, a controversial war, and a President with the lowest approval rating in history. The first quarter of the year was […]