This interview is over 1 year old and may no longer be up to date or reflect the interviewee/interviewees’ positions
.Naomi House, MLIS’s interview with the founder of EveryLibrary, John Chrastka.
EveryLibrary is the first and only national organization dedicated exclusively to political action at a local level to create, renew, and protect public funding for libraries of all types. We will provide tactical and operational support to local voter awareness campaigns, seed and sustaining monies to local ballot committees and PACs, as well as conducting direct voter advocacy in support of library taxing, bonding, and referendum. (http://everylibrary.org/about-everylibrary/)
previously published 9/10/13
Naomi: How did you come to work for (or start) EveryLibrary?
John: I started EveryLibrary for two reasons, both having to do with public money: #1. There is a massive amount of funding for libraries appropriated on local ballots. Last November (2012) we counted up at least $268 million on zipcode level elections. The entire federal appropriation for libraries doesn’t top $150 million annually. And #2. It doesn’t take much money to run good campaigns. We’ve seen what $3,000 to $4,000 can do to communicate effectively with voters about libraries in campaigns like Spokane (a $1.6 mil win) and Santa Clara County Library District (a $6.2 mil win). If we look at the research that underpins EveryLibrary’s genesis, it is clear that the biggest drivers for voter behavior are their perceptions of the librarian and their respect for the institution. If we can help librarians understand they are the candidate and help campaigns show-off how the library is a continuing transformative force in their communities, we’ll help more libraries win the funding they need.
Naomi: How can librarians help EveryLibrary?
John: We need help getting the word out that we exist and that we are effective allies for libraries when planning a ballot measure and for citizen committees planning Vote Yes campaigns. We are non-partisan and pro-library. We believe firmly that it is OK to be politically active to secure our funding. Librarians can also help us with donations. For every $1 we have spent supporting a campaign we have helped secure $1,150 in public funding on Election Days. This means that a $25 donation goes very, very far in winning on Election Day for libraries. (rally.org/everylibrary)
Naomi: Can you speak a little about your experiences with libraries? Any favorite libraries or experiences with them?
John: I’ve been a trustee at the Berwyn (IL) Public Library for several years. My role as board president is to run good meetings, back-up the director during change, and make sure our committees and staff have what they need to succeed. It isn’t day-to-day management or user interaction, though. But I get to point with pride at how we handled a recent materials challenge (fair hearing, kept the item), how we took a bequest and turned it into fundraising leverage (matching grants and doubling-up on outcomes), and how we budget and plan for success (did the first full strategic plan with all-staff input).
Naomi: Favorite book?
John: Most everything by Wallace Stegner, still. I read a lot of New Yorker-length essays on civil society stuff.
Naomi: Favorite thing about libraries/ library technology?
John: I guess I am an old-school progressive because I like to see the library well used and supported by tax dollars for the common good. I like both the idea and practice of neutral-engagement that a user experience embodies. And I am a fan of the fact that librarians are early adopters who train late-cycle adopters every day.
Naomi: Are there any blogs or websites we should be following?
John: I look to Think Tank for solid interaction about libraries – and the profession – along with a healthy dose of “WTF are they thinking?” going on in public. I’m also reading http://themonkeycage.org/ for the equivalent level of discourse in the Poli Sci world.
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