Why Can’t They Just Do It?
Over the past few days I've been asked "Why can't ALA or OCLC or ULC just make a PAC for libraries?"
It isn't that these associations don't want to support libraries at the local ballot box. As 501c3 organizations they are largely prohibited from "electioneering". The ALA Washington Office works as hard to support library issues when they come before Congress while nearly every state library association has a lobbyist to work on issues at the state house. ULC specializes in advocacy trainings and collecting, disseminating, and utilizing research to make a case for libraries. And while OCLC's Geek the Library materials are designed to move patrons to become advocates they also explicitly prohibit participating libraries from using the Geek themes in campaigns and elections. It is a strength of these associations that their advocacy missions are focused in particular ways but it is also a hazard that the IRS code restricts them from certain activities.
It is EveryLibrary's legal structure that will create a meaningfully different organization. Not better organization - just different. We will exist to talk to voters about particular ballot initiatives. While most 501c3 associations either cannot or do not say "Vote yes on Measure L" or "Vote Yes on the Millage", we are organized to do just that. We will operate to support local ballot committees and do voter education and get-out-the-vote efforts; it is voter advocacy about specific initiatives, referendum, and ballot measures that is the "last mile" of library advocacy.
Each state and national library association recognizes that advocating for ballot measures to authorize new or restored funding for libraries is a vital part of the advocacy picture. We also know that advocacy for libraries is a strategy that can take years to come to fruition - and it needs our support. EveryLibrary is tactical and focused on Election Day. Even if we succeed one day in November we still need sustained advocacy for our institutions throughout the year.