We Should be Concerned About 2018’s Library Ballot Measure Results

Last night, libraries and library supporters across the country eagerly awaited the return of election results affecting their libraries.

Last night, libraries and library supporters across the country eagerly awaited the return of election results affecting their libraries.

We are happy to report that – because of people like you – some libraries won millions of dollars in stable funding and library construction funds. Leading up to Election Day, EveryLibrary was able to take critical political actions for libraries, such as:

  • bundling small donations from around the country to make larger donations to a local campaign (or YES committee)
  • building messages and voter data for Get Out the Vote work
  • training library staff and library boards as Community Engagement Teams*
  • supporting library boards and leadership on their path to the ballot

While I was happy about putting your donations to work, I’m very concerned about the national results for libraries because they showed a significant decline in voter support.

It is ‘too close to call’ today in Bayfield, CO. for the Pine River Library – there is only a 10 vote margin. Likewise in Sequim, WA., where they will re-canvas on the 9th.

As of ‘now’, we are happy to report wins in:

  • Kansas City, MO.
  • Spokane, WA.
  • Ypsilanti, MI.
  • Marquette, MI.

Here’s what happens next for each of these libraries because they passed their tax measures:

Kansas City, MO – Across Kansas City Public Library’s 10 locations there will be new investments in literacy and reading, community connections and neighborhood livability, and downtown development. The win stabilizes the budget and gives the KCPL team new leverage to support children, seniors, job seekers, and local businesses.

Marquette, MI and surrounding townships –  With 4 out of 5 townships and the city of Marquette passing their funding measures, the Peter White Public Library is reinvesting in access to libraries for everyone. The library will continue to build cultural programs, literacy services, and connections in their community.

Spokane, WA. – In conjunction with the school district, this win ensures a series of innovative building projects for the Spokane Public Library. In addition to 21st century school / public libraries co-located in 2 neighborhoods, there will be significant upgrades and other new dedicated library projects around town.

Ypsilanti, MI. – Having just celebrated their 100th anniversary, the Ypsilanti District Library will put this levy to work building a new library in Superior Township. The city and its two townships rely on the library’s literacy, learning, and cultural programming, and those efforts will also be supercharged by the win.


We tracked every library campaign across the country in 2018. Click here to see the results.

I’m sorry to report that our friends in Rochester, IL., Anythink Libraries in Adams County, CO., the Clearview Library District in CO., and in Vineland, NJ. all lost their ballot measures last night.

The Vineland Library went to the ballot because their city council unexpectedly cut their funding by 37% back in March. With this loss, the furloughs and cutbacks will now become permanent. It was a mixed night for libraries across the country, and very different than 2017 when nearly 9 out of 10 won. Either my colleague Patrick Sweeney or I worked closely with each and every one of these communities on different parts of their campaigns, and we feel the losses personally and professionally.

On the national scale, EveryLibrary is concerned about the results coming out of last night. Early returns show only 72% of the ballot measures passing nationwide. While there was good support for funding renewals and annual budgets, new funding asks fell short. Significantly, there were losses even in places with record turnouts. The 2017 library win rate of +94% -originally seeming too good to be true – is, in fact, turning out to be an anomaly. While there continues to be a lot of appreciation for libraries, there is softening voter support for libraries on Election Day.

Library advocacy and marketing needs to be re-focused on building support instead of simply inviting use. Here at EveryLibrary we are working to close the “appreciation to funding gap” by helping librarians build coalitions based on the value system of the voters. EveryLibrary hopes to empower librarians when their libraries are on the ballot. Librarians are the candidate in the race.

EveryLibrary is directly reaching out to Americans on social media and through our Action.EveryLibrary.org and SaveSchoolLibrarians.org action channels asking people to support libraries. To do this effectively and quickly, we need your help. If you believe that there should be a politically active organization that is uniquely focused on pro-library elections and funding for libraries, please donate today. We want to continue doing this kind of work, and doing it even better. All of our work for local libraries on the ballot is pro-bono. We provide our services regardless of a library’s ability to pay because we believe in our organizational vision that “any library ballot measure anywhere should matter to every library everywhere”. If you believe that every town, city, and county should have the best library possible, please donate to support our unique and high-impact work today.

With these 10 campaigns behind us, our total supported library campaigns is 98. Thanks to donor support, we have helped secure over $320 million per annum in stable funding for libraries across the county. We will have our 100th library election in April of 2019! Thank you for helping build voter support for libraries across the country.