2013 Library Elections - First Look

or many public libraries in the United States, Election Day 2013 was the single biggest fundraising day for a generation.  In small townships and major cities across the country, libraries asked voters about plans for new buildings, innovative services, updated collections and expanded access, or to renew the basic funding for libraries in their towns, cities, and counties.

Local appropriations through property, sales, or use taxes account for over 90% of public library funding.  With state budgets squeezed and federal dollars sequestered, libraries rely more and more on locally originated revenue for operations, services, collections, and staffing. Voter behavior and attitudes about libraries drive the future health of these key community anchor institutions. On Election Days throughout 2013, libraries have had mixed success in securing or renewing funding to serve the public.  From January to November 4th, 2013, EveryLibrary has identified at least 57 ballot measures for libraries.  

As of this writing, the vote is still out for many of yesterday's elections.  When looking at measures decided earlier this year, voters have approved 13 and defeated 10 of these initiatives.  When we include some of yesterday's early results, voters have approved measures both large and small, such as a renewal of the Santa Clara County (CA) 20-year $6.2 million annual parcel tax, a $59 million new library bond in Richland County (SC),  and a $250,000 annual levy in Ronan, MT.  Likewise in 2013, voters have rejected measures such as a $2.5 million new library bond in Cornelius, OR., a $13.6 million new library bond for Dewitt (MI) Library District, and new district authority for the Brookville (NY) Library.  

These mixed results for libraries point to a need for more direct voter engagement by library communities.  Our analysis will continue to be updated as more election results from November 4th are certified. As the first national political action committee for libraries, EveryLibrary is focused on supporting local library communities as they plan and campaign for new or renewed taxing authority. Through 2013, we were directly involved in supporting five local ballot committees in California, Illinois, Washington, Montana and Oregon.  In 2013, EveryLibrary has helped local communities secure over $8.5 million in funding for their public libraries on these Election Days.   

We train and support Get Out the Vote efforts and effective Information-Only campaigns.  Our work is funded by donations from individuals, businesses and other stakeholders who believe in the value of public libraries in every American community. EveryLibrary will be publishing a comprehensive report and interactive spreadsheets detailing the type of measures, the pass/fail rates and public funding at stake as the results from November 4th, 2013 elections are certified by local jurisdictions.