Annual Report: Libraries 2020 Launch
On December 3, EveryLibrary and the EveryLibrary Institute announced the launch of the Libraries 2020 campaign, a first of its kind nationwide voter engagement campaign for libraries. Using modern, advanced voter engagement strategies, the Libraries 2020 campaign will build political power, lasting public engagement, and true voter support for library funding across the country. This campaign brings the skills, competencies, and successes of both EveryLibrary, the only national political action committee for libraries, and the EveryLibrary Institute, a non-profit library think tank focused on the future of library funding.
While libraries are well-loved and highly used across the county, their funding is often at-risk during election cycles and from attacks by anti-tax organizations or ideologically driven politicians. There are significant challenges to reaching people who care about libraries in the current political climate and social media environment. Libraries 2020 will be the first national library voter engagement campaign to purchase radio ads, television ads, billboards and outdoor signage, as well as social media ads and coordinated in-person canvassing. A national voter engagement campaign of this size and scope has never been attempted in the United States. Our goal is to leverage all our experiences across EveryLibrary and the EveryLibrary Institute to build new voter and public support for libraries in 2020.
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Across the country, we are seeing a significant decline in political support for libraries by local, state, and federal elected officials, regardless of party. Over the years, cuts have come from both progressive and conservative leadership. Libertarian thought-leaders are already aligned against the core concept of using taxes to fund the public good. For example, we’ve seen proposed or instituted cuts to library funding from governors like Andrew Cuomo (D), Jerry Brown (D), Ted Strickland (D), Matt Blevin (R), Mike Dunleavy (R), and Brian Kemp (R), to name a few. President Trump has proposed eliminating the funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services every year of his term. Democratic presidential hopeful Cory Booker has a history of cutting library funding when he was mayor of Newark, NJ. Those of us who have participated in legislative days at the state level often hear from politicians on both sides of the partisan divide say that libraries are a “nice to have” and not a “need to have” and therefore are subject to cuts in times of budget shortages.
Another significant problem for the library industry is that we are losing support among both conservative and progressive voters. Through campaign public opinion polling and through the data in the “From Awareness to Funding” studies (OCLC 2008 and 2018) we know that both political sides will support libraries if given the opportunity and, most critically, if they are spoken to in the political language that they understand. That means that if we speak to conservatives using conservative language about libraries, then they will support libraries. If we speak progressive language to progressive voters, they too will support libraries. For example, if we speak to conservative voters about connecting marginalized communities to government services, then they are unlikely to support libraries. But if we talk to those same voters about libraries giving people the ability to pick themselves up and put themselves back to work, then they are highly likely to support libraries. In either case, we are not changing the work, activities, or services provided by libraries to the community. We are changing voters’ opinions of libraries and building their propensity for voting for libraries.
School libraries and school librarianship will be a core focus of the Libraries 2020 campaign. We want to see real change happen with a better future of school library funding and the role of certified school librarians. This can only be accomplished by directly engaging with school boards, school board candidates, superintendents, and principals about the role and impact of effective library programs and by identifying, cultivating, and empowering more Americans to demand school librarians in their schools. The Libraries 2020 campaign will build on our successes with the SaveSchoolLibrarians.org advocacy initiatives and employ similar digital and real-world engagements with parents, school board members, and stakeholders for real and lasting change.
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EveryLibrary has a long track record of build voter support for public libraries and for putting school libraries on the agenda. We will use all of the tools and resources available to political action committees to create and field an advocacy campaign across social digital and social media, traditional media, field campaigns. Our companion organization the EveryLibrary Institute will harness the power of voter and public perception research and the capacities within the philanthropic giving community to help sustain a robust, smart, and targeted campaign. Together, EveryLibrary and the EveryLibrary Institute will utilize their networks across the library community, within the political field, and beyond the library sector in order to position the Libraries 2020 campaign to be successful.
As 2020 opens, we are looking for funding partners and networking partners to help us create the marketing and communications assets needed to support voter engagement at scale about library funding and the role of librarians in communities and schools across in the United States. You can support this work as a donor and a connector. Please visit Libraries2020.org to be a part of this important campaign.