Annual Report: Direct Political Action
In 2019, EveryLibrary helped dozens of libraries safeguard their funding from local threats through direct political actions and lobbying activities or through behind-the-scenes supports for leaders and activists as they campaigned for their libraries.
In many cases, the library leaders came to us while in the middle of a budget crisis or another attack on their library. In each of our local direct-action campaigns, we hope to identify, cultivate, and empower new supporters for that library and affect positive political change through our involvement. We are not a passive petition platform. The EveryLibrary team is actively involved with the local stakeholders in planning and executing strategies to achieve their campaign goals.
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Our action.everylibrary.org platform enables us to create and support direct actions for libraries. We are able to field petitions and emailing campaigns targeted at elected officials and use social-influencing campaigns to affect positive change for libraries and library issues. EveryLibrary can set up a direct action for a library in crisis in only a few hours. Because of our donor support, we can have that campaign out in front of the local, regional, or national stakeholders using paid social media ads very quickly. It is this combination of grassroots and paid advertising that makes us so effective.
In 2019, we saw threats to library funding come from many different quarters. We regularly see politicians in counties, cities, and towns who are anti-tax or ideologically-motivated target the library for cuts. Whether they are unaware of the important role that libraries play in their communities or willfully ignorant of the need for public funding for the common good, the library is in their sights. For example, in Menominee County, MI., the evidence for cutting the library was based entirely on personal observations of one county commissioner. “I can’t find anyone who goes to the library to check out books,” Commissioner David Prestin said. According to the Eagle Herald newspaper, he believes that any information someone wants is just right on their phone. “I personally haven’t checked out a book in over 25 years,” he went on to say. EveryLibrary helped mobilize hundreds of people on our Action platform from around the county and helped local organizers hold a rally at the Court House before the commission vote.
In Citrus County, FL., the county commission took the culture war directly into the library’s collection by declaring that the New York Times was “Fake News” and cutting off funding for the digital issue. This echoes the divisive and inflammatory rhetoric of President Trump and makes a mockery of the library’s important role in supporting open and fair access to information. EveryLibrary quickly created a digital platform for people to express their opinions directly to the county commissioners. People from across the country used it to make their voices heard. According to Bay News 9 “In the weeks since [the vote], county leaders say they've been contacted by thousands of people across the country. Josh Wooten, President of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, said he's concerned the comments will give people a negative view of the county and impact tourism, especially with the county's popular manatee season starting soon. This week, Commissioner Brian Coleman [said] they plan on taking up another resolution and want to "reconsider digital subscription to New York Times in lieu of print version and authorize Chairman to execute the necessary agreement”.
It is these kinds of pro-library direct actions that are so important to building new political power and influence for libraries. The Citrus County Examiner said it best when they noted “If you attended the meeting or watched the video, it was clear that the reason for rejection [of the New York Times] wasn’t fully fiscal — it was personal… It was also downright unprofessional.” Here at EveryLibrary we want to not only reverse bad decisions but also to build new political power for libraries that insulate them from these kind of baseless attacks in the future.
Other highlights from our 2019 direct political actions and petitions include our support for the Stillwater County, MT. library as they faced down an 11% budget cut, and in Baldwin County, GA. where we helped the Friends of the Mary Vinson Library run an effective digital and on-the-ground campaign to prevent a loss of state grant money.
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We help local library leaders and stakeholders run direct political actions because we believe that every library matters. People rely on libraries more than ever for a wider array of services. The availability of books and other materials in a range of formats, for anyone, whether they can pay or not, is an essential public service. The availability of safe public spaces is an essential resource in our democracy. Libraries preserve our historical, scientific and cultural records through their collections. They help people find jobs, gain new skills, and get ahead in life. If no one stands up for the library when it’s under attack, then the anti-tax and ideological forces aligned against all of civil society will win.