Heading into the 2016 Elections
On November 8th, we are working with 13 public libraries who are on the ballot. Two are must-pass operating measures.
Two are building bonds. The remaining 9 would add funding capacity to the library if they pass. For each, we have supported planning and assessment with the staff and board as early as possible in their process. We have continued to act as advisors and guides to the local committees on their voter engagement work. Since we started EveryLibrary in 2012, we have had 41 Election Days with 32 wins and have helped secure over $100 million in stable tax revenue for those libraries.
EveryLibrary provides pro-bono training and coaching to library boards and staff on how to plan and execute an effective Informational Communications Campaign about a library bond, referendum, levy, parcel tax, or measure. We also provide free campaign advising and consulting to local citizens’ committees on campaigns and campaigning in support of their library’s ballot measure.
2016 Campaigns / 2017 Capacity
With 2017 being an ‘off cycle’ year, there will likely be fewer libraries going to the ballot. If the pattern holds from previous odd numbered years, we will likely work with about 14 campaigns. Our first two in 2017 are anticipating either a February or April ballot date. We still have capacity to support late 2017 campaigns, and we are especially interested in talking with campaigns about 2018 or 2019 as well. We believe that the earlier we can help them start their planning and assessment processes, the more effective it will be.
Not every community we work with goes to the ballot. For libraries that need to conduct a funding discussion with their town board, city council or county commission, we also provide pro-bono assistance for those negotiations.
ESSA Work with State School Library Associations
In March and April, EveryLibrary had begun working with three state library associations in support of their ESSA advocacy and outreach efforts. The goal was to help them embed the positive changes for school librarians and school library programs from the federal law into their states’ ESSA Implementation Plans. Since early July, EveryLibrary has expanded this offer of technical assistance, training, and coaching to 18 state school library associations. This work is made possible by donor support from Rosen Publishing. Their early involvement in the project’s expansion was critical to its success.
Our work is not focused on developing school library policy or standards. Rather, we focus on the process of aligning member resources, developing and using position papers directed to SEAs to advance a policy agenda, and training for effective stakeholder engagement at listening tours, through surveys, and other points of contact with the SEAs. Each state organization’s tactical and strategic approach to influencing state education policy and funding formulas is as varied as each eventual ESSA Plan.
Each of our school library stakeholder communities have shaped their own policy work within the ESSA key action areas framework and through a lived-understanding of the exigencies of working within their states’ educational environments. Those that have school library standards have put those rubrics to work in their recommendations to their SEAs. For those without an in-state framework, AASL and ALA’s policy work has been crucial to developing a robust engagement with their state plans. A common consensus is emerging across all the state organizations that ESSA is the last best hope for the future of the profession. Each have also embraced the ESSA Planning process as a way to re-invigorate their members and colleagues around what could be a better future for their positions and programs.
List Growth and Donor Support
EveryLibrary is working hard to build a unique and effective emailing list of supporters, activists, and donors from around the country. We know that the key to advocacy success is to activate the public for libraries. We regularly run petitions and calls-to-actions about public and school libraries along with other issues affecting libraries via our action.everylibrary.org site. We do this to try and help solve specific advocacy problems, but also to identify and engage people from all walks of life who look at libraries as part of the civic, social, educational, and democratic fabric of their communities and our country.
We have hosted several successful public-facing calls-to-action this season, including a joint advocacy effort with AKLA to restore funding by the Alaska State Legislature for the OWL broadband for libraries program, a petition about open and fair library election for Douglas County, OR conjunction with OLA, and a threat to school librarians' jobs in Chesterfield, VA. We have been expanding our public-engagement about school libraries and school librarians with an ongoing focus on Chicago Public Schools is ongoing. We were very happy to also host a Book of Congratulations for Dr. Carla Hayden on her confirmation as the 14th Librarian of Congress.
These calls to action are on very diverse topics. Some are for very small communities. And yet we know that when we ask people from all across the country to take action for libraries, they respond. During 2016, we have grown our list of the “reachable public” to over 40,000 people. Our goal is to have a “reach” of 250,000 people by the end of 2017. This list will allow EveryLibrary to support public libraries as they go out for funding, school libraries and librarians across all kinds of districts, state associations as they reach beyond their membership for advocacy asks, and our national partners as we build awareness and funding support for libraries.
We are pleased to report that we are continuing to grow our fundraising capacity while we grow our list of library activists. Fundraising industry experts suggest that between 3% - 3.5% of an issue or advocacy organization’s total mailing list should convert to donors. EveryLibrary is holding steady at that ratio of activists to donors, and we are hoping to see that continue as we grow. Our goal was never to be reliant on library vendor donors for our long term sustainability. With our list growth and a healthy number of individual one-time and monthly donors, we are on track to being self-sustaining by the end of 2017.
If we can be of any help to your library communities, please contact our Executive Director John Chrastka at [email protected] or 312-574-0316.