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Before the Ballot: Building Political Support for Library Funding

by John Chrastka and Patrick Sweeney

Let’s be blunt: library funding is political. And the struggle to secure funding is ongoing; the work that librarians need to do to influence local politics doesn’t just pop up in the few months before Election Day. It should span the years before or between elections. The authors’ previous book Winning Elections and Influencing Politicians for Library Funding targeted library ballot committees and advocacy organizations. But their new book speaks directly to librarians, library staff, and boards. It is designed to help library leaders understand and navigate the political nature of their work in the years leading up to a ballot measure or political initiative. Sharing the tools and tactics developed by their organization EveryLibrary, the nation’s first and only Political Action Committee for Libraries, in this book they

  • discuss how the day-to-day work of librarians, their communications with the public, and their roles and responsibilities in the community can help increase the willingness of public and local elected officials to support funding libraries through taxes;
  • guide readers through the practical side of running a public-facing Informational Communications Campaign for their library before Election Day;
  • explain the concept of surfacing, the important groundwork of occupying a strong and positive space in the community during the years before and between ballot measures;
  • demonstrate why surfacing is one of the most crucial steps a library can take to build and maintain support;
  • share the most recent data insights into voter attitudes about libraries and librarians;
  • show how libraries can coordinate internally to build new external partners;
  • offer advice on finding, activating, and holding onto supporters; and
  • discuss the path to the ballot with practical insights about how to get onto the ballot.

This essential resource is filled with concrete steps that librarians, library staff, and boards can take to ensure that political support is there when they need it the most.

Chrastka, John and Patrick Sweeney. Before the Ballot: Building Political Support for Library Funding. Chicago, ALA Neal Schuman, 2019. 272 pp.
ISBN 13: 978-0838917794