The Library Tax is Different Part Two

This is the second of two posts written by Lance Werner, Director for Kent District Library (MI). EveryLibrary worked with KDL in 2014 on a 10 year levy renewal for about $20.06 million per year which passed successfully.

This is the second of two posts written by Lance Werner, Director for Kent District Library (MI). EveryLibrary worked with KDL in 2014 on a 10 year levy renewal for about $20.06 million per year which passed successfully.

Of particular note was Mr. Werner’s extensive engagement with local budget watchdog groups well in advance of the ballot. In Part One, Mr. Werner focuses on the reflective and strategic process of choosing the messaging to the public about the library and the ballot measure as part of the information only campaign. In Part Two, Mr. Werner describes how the library engaged an anti-tax group as constituents instead of adversaries.

Instead of trying to avoid them (which is what most other taxing entities in our area do), we made the choice to meet with them personally. It was a great meeting and we shared the truth. Instead of trying to obfuscate our plans, we decided to present them with all of our financial data and prepared to answer any tough questions they might have. We believe in transparency and accountability and this group was (and is) concerned with governmental accountability. Instead of engaging the Kent County Taxpayers’ Alliance as adversaries, we engaged them as friends and constituents. They asked us tough questions and we answered them. Kudos to them for holding our feet to the fire. As a result of this meeting, one of their members graciously volunteered to help KDL with its millage campaign as a volunteer. Our volunteer worked tirelessly and went door to door on our behalf. He gave us new perspective and sound advice from a Tea Party point of view. There was never any effort to launch a counter campaign. In fact, we had support from residents possessing diverse political views. KDL was represented as it should be, as a non-partisan entity that works to provide service to everyone.

Our campaign was successful for the reasons mentioned above, but we also had terrific polling data, a wonderful informational campaign (including a strong KDL employee based Speaker’s Bureau), support from John Chrastka and the EveryLibrary Super PAC, and despite funding concerns, a strong grassroots campaign. KDL also received a glowing endorsement from the Grand Rapids Press Editorial Board and wide support among county residents. As a result, KDL passed its millage increase in places that it had never passed before.

We also learned a lot of lessons. First, incredible, transformative service forms the foundation for all other activities (build library love). Second, accountability and transparency are critical (always be truthful). Third, it is not enough to engage in the first and second lessons- always work to tell the library’s story (if a library is engaged in the first and second lessons, it is bound to be a good one). The fourth is the importance of treating everyone like a constituent (especially when there is a substantial likelihood of an initial critical reception). Finally, teamwork will carry the day.

Now that we have achieved our increase, the real work begins. We will fulfill our promises to our taxpayers.

This week’s Lib Elections News

Taney County (MO) Commissioners denied a library tax proposal for the August 2015 ballot. The motion to add it to the ballot by the presiding commissioner was not seconded. There was a perceived priority, by council members, placed on an upcoming 911 tax and a roads tax. A similar library tax proposal failed in a 2013 election. The article notes that “The future is somewhat unclear for the library district.

The district and board will dissolve if funding is not secured by May 1, 2016. In the meantime, Young said she and the other board members will continue to educate the community on the benefits of a countywide library system.

Spokane Library District (WA) made a presentation to city council last week on their August ballot measure. Voters will decide on a 22 million dollar bond that will fund 4 projects including an expansion of the Argonne Library and a new library on Herald Road. Last week, Ravalli (MT) County Commissioners approved placing a ballot measure asking voters for a permanent 3 mill increase for the Darby Library on their September 2015 ballot. Since 2004 the library has seen a 240% increase in visitors and this increase will secure them over $30,000 per year. The library has been relying on donations for over 30% of its operating budget which has made it difficult to do long term planning. This is the first increase the library has asked for since opening in 2001. Also, voters in Preble County (OH) will decide on the renewal of a library tax this November. The 5 year renewal will allow the library budget to stay at the current level of $1.75 million per year.

Other Happenings

We are an organizational partner for Outside the Lines again this year. If you want to bring your library out into the community in a new way, join this informational webinar on Wednesday, May 27, and put Get Outside the Lines on your library's calendar this September.

As you are putting together your schedules for the ALA Annual Conference in SF don’t forget these two awesome events we are co-sponsoring. The first is the ALA Think Tank Pre Party and Fundraiser on Thursday, June 25 at 8pm at the Center for Sex and Culture. All proceeds will go toward supporting this rare archive and social education center. RSVP on Facebook and buy a ticket now. Then on Sunday, June 28 at 8pm we will be partying and fundraising with Queery at the Make Out Room. All proceeds from this event will go toward the GLBT Historical society. Tickets are not yet available, but you can RSVP here.

That is all for this week. Join us next week for another round up. Happy trails!