Annual Report: Public Library Elections

EveryLibrary was proud to work with 14 library communities on their ballot measures in 2019.

EveryLibrary was proud to work with 14 library communities on their ballot measures in 2019.

As a political action committee for libraries, we are able to work with both library staff and boards on planning and executing effective Information Only campaigns as well as being able to actively engage local ballot committees and citizen groups in advising and consulting on Get Out the Vote and voter engagement for the library measure. We are uniquely positioned as a 501(c)4 non-profit to work on both aspects of the campaign. As it has been since our founding, all our campaign consulting, coaching, guidance, and advising is done pro-bono and for free because of our donors. Through 2019, we have helped 110 libraries with their ballot measures winning 80% and securing over $1.8 billion in new or renewed funding for these libraries. 

One 2019 campaign highlight was the voter approval of the new Southwest La Plata County Library District near Durango, CO. We worked closely with the volunteer-led campaign team during the petition process last summer and up through Election Day in November. They had to go to the ballot because the county commission had cut off funding for their two community libraries. Without a new taxing district, those libraries would have closed. As in many other places, EveryLibrary was the first donor to their Vote Yes campaign. One of our strengths is our ability to “bundle up” small-dollar donations from around the country and give a larger donation to library campaigns like this. The library district passed 52% to 48% and the new board and a Friends group are getting organized. 

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Other highlights include Spokane County, WA., where Proposition 1, a new operating levy to expand services and stabilize the library’s future, passed with a 53% Yes vote. About 93% of the library’s budget is funded by property taxes. Without this increase in funding from the levy, the Spokane County Library District would have cut services and staff and, in the next few years, some library branches could close. We were also thrilled for the Pend Oreille (WA) County Library District’s 63% yes vote to restore a property tax levy for operations. Without that funding, two branch libraries in their very rural county would have closed. In Palatine, IL. voters approved a tax increase by 64% that will allow the library to maintain services while keeping its infrastructure up-to-date. In DeSoto, MO. 62% of voters said yes to restoring the levy rate to 0.35 cents. This will dramatically increase services for all. In Rockton, IL. 69% of voters approved a bond for the Talcott Free Library to finish their building expansion project and truly be an anchor for their main street. 

As much as we focus on the wins we need to evaluate and engage with our losses. In Lafayette Parish, LA. voters approved a $10 million “rededication levy” that takes funding away from the library reserves to pay for a flood control project. We never want to see any library targeted like this. It is one of only two “Vote No” campaigns we have ever run (the other was also in Louisiana for Lafourche Parish in 2013). We were also sorry that the River Grove (IL) Public Library lost their bond measure 462 to 1,016 in the face of strong local anti-tax sentiments. We had the wonderful opportunity to work with the Pine River Library District in Bayfield. CO. again this year.  On the 2018 Midterms they lost a levy campaign by 9 votes. Under the leadership of library director Shelley Walchak and in close consultation with the EveryLibrary team, they reevaluated their approach to creating effective coalitions and successfully re-ran the measure. It passed with a 58% Yes vote. 

Every successful campaign starts out with a small group of visionaries who want to see their communities invest in their library. Because we are a political action committee, we can help them refine their messaging, understand their voter data, amplify their social media strategy, and do effective Get Out the Vote campaigns. As we have since our first campaign in 2013, all of our support for these libraries was given for free and pro-bono. There shouldn’t be any barriers for a community to get the library they need and deserve. 

Southwest LaPlata County, Colorado
Create a new library taxing district and establish the levy
Win – November 5, 2019

Pine River Library District (CO)
New 1.5 mill levy increase to fund the library
Win – November 5, 2019

Eagle River Library District (CO)
To “De-Gallagher” the library’s levy
Pass – November 5, 2019

Pueblo City-County Library (CO)
Replace expiring levy funding for operations
Win – November 5, 2019

Ruben Hoar Library, Littleton, MA. 
A $13 million for a new library to make a $5.8 million state match
Win – November 1, 2019

Lafayette (LA) Public Library System
$10 million Rededication Levy
Loss - October 12, 2019

Pend Oreille County Library District (WA)
Restore levy to $0.50 from $0.37 for operations
Win – August 6, 2019

Spokane County Library District (WA)
Increase operating levy by $0.07 cents to $0.50
Win – August 6, 2019

Union Library Company of Hatboro (PA)
Special library tax of .55 mills
Win – May 21, 2019

DeSoto (MO) Public Library
Levy increase of $0.18 cents for operations
Win – April 2, 2019

Palatine (IL) Public Library
Increase on the Library’s property tax levy of 0.075 mils
Win – April 2, 2019

River Grove (IL) Public Library
Bond to purchase a building and property for a new library
Loss – April 2, 2019

Talcott Free Library in Rockton, IL.
Raise its “limiting rate” from .2149 to .288 to complete building renovations and stabilize the budget
Win – April 2, 2019

Charlotte Library (VT)
A $700,000 bond as a component of a $1.4 million renovation/expansion
Win – March 5, 2019

With these wins and losses, EveryLibrary has now worked with 110 library communities on their ballot measures. We are proud of helping 87 win on their Election Day. Since our first campaign in February 2013, we have helped secure over $1.8 billion in stable tax funding for our libraries. 

Make a donation today and help us support libraries in 2020

In 2020, we project working directly with 20 - 22 libraries in support of their ballot measures. Our organizational vision is that “any library ballot measure anywhere should matter to every library everywhere”. Our aim with the Libraries 2020 campaign is to continue to provide direct, pro-bono support to specific library communities who need it while also using digital and social media tools to create a more positive messaging environment about libraries in general across the country. Through our Libraries 2020 campaign we will continue to create and field #VoteLibraries messaging and resources that local library “Vote Yes” committees can use for free and without copyright restrictions to support their own campaigns.