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 Patrick Sweeney of EveryLibrary.
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 9/24/13
Naomi: How did you come to work for (or start) EveryLibrary?
Patrick: The short story is that I started working for EveryLibrary because John Chrastka asked me to. He and Jp Porcaro are my two library spirit animals so when they ask me to do things, I do whatever I can to help out.
The longer story is that John and I had a long chat about what’s wrong with library funding in the country at some ALA Think Tank House or party or something social thing at a conference. We talked about what our library associations do, or can do, to support libraries when they go for funding at the ballot box. It actually turns out that they can do very little and many are unwilling to do anything at all. This isn’t their fault at all, it’s simply the kind of rules they have to follow as a 501(3)c organization and its also due to a lack of resources.
We also talked about how I had also been thinking for a long time that I’m getting tired of the kind of low budget grassroots advocacy that libraries have been accustomed to doing and that it was time for us to really start fighting more professionally with much better funding for what we need. The organizations that we are in competition with for funding are much better organized, more professional, and their campaigns are much better funded. EveryLibrary simply evens out the playing field.
Of course, when John proposed the solution to me and asked me to join him to create EveryLibrary, I jumped at the chance. It was the opportunity and solution that I had been looking for!
Naomi: How can librarians help EveryLibrary?
Patrick: This is actually pretty easy. There are two really great ways that anyone can help EveryLibrary fight for libraries at the Ballot Box.
The first and cheapest way to help is simply to connect with us. They can do that by signing up for our newsletter, following us on FB, Twitter, or Tumblr and encouraging all of their friends and library supporters to do it too. The other organizations who are competing for tax dollars have large and well-informed coalitions of supporters on their side and that’s exactly what we are trying to build right now.
The other way, is to help with funding. We are a completely and totally contribution supported organization and without people supporting us financially, we can not win for libraries. We’ve helped libraries in some way or another win around 8.5 million dollars in funding through elections and that was only possible because of people donating. So, we’d love to find people who want to do something big like hosting a fundraiser in their community or something smaller like simply giving a few dollars here and there whenever they can. Everything that you do helps us fight politically for funding for libraries because that is all that we do.
Naomi: Can you speak a little about your experiences with libraries? Any favorite libraries or experiences with them?
Patrick: I have a lot of favorite experiences with libraries. I think my favorite was when I was a kid and my librarian at the Wilmont branch of the Pima County Library system named Bobby Bargs let me help her with the Reading Rainbow Collection. I’m pretty sure that she was simply trying to get me out of her hair because I was in that library all the time. But in any case, she let me stick the rainbow spine labels on the books from the latest episodes of the TV show and I loved doing it.
Naomi: Favorite book?
Patrick: Probably Calvin and Hobbes honestly. I can read those comic books over and over all day long and they were the books that really got me into reading. But I have a lot of books that I love a whole lot and I don’t think I could pick another one to be my favorite. I do have some favorite genres though. I’ve been mostly reading non-fiction and classics for the past couple of years. Things like biographies and nautical history books. Most recently I discovered western novels like the ones written by Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour and I just can’t get enough of them.
Naomi: Favorite thing about libraries/ library technology?
Patrick: Well, that’s kind of why I love working for libraries right now. There is just so much and change and innovation and people can be really creative in what they’re doing. My favorite thing about libraries right now is that we have a bigger opportunity to define our role in the United States than we ever have before. I really think that we are going through a huge renaissance in librarianship and that if we fight for it, we’re going to be coming out ahead on the other side. I’ve really excited to be a part of it.
Naomi: Are there any blogs or websites we should be following?
Patrick: I can’t really answer that. I read so many. But, I do think that librarians need to start reading non-library blogs and writing and learning about things outside of the profession. For example, because of my work with EveryLibrary I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about electioneering and building PACs and Political Advocacy and I have learned so much that I can apply directly to my library. This is an area that I wished more librarians were involved in. It’s really integral to our core funding base and we don’t know or do enough about it. Politics and the art of winning elections is really wild and you’d be really surprised how elections are won in America. If you want to get a start, I highly recommend a book called Campaign Boot Camp by Christine Pelosi who is Nancy Pelosi’s daughter. It will blow you mind and you’ll learn a ton of stuff that you can apply to your day to day job.
Patrick Sweeney is a tireless and innovative advocate for libraries. A 2005 graduate of the San Jose School of Library and Information Sciences, Mr. Sweeney works for the San Mateo County (CA) Library and manages the East Palo Alto and Atherton Public Libraries. He is active in the American Library Association where he is an at-large member of their governing Council. As a California Library Association member, Mr. Sweeney has most recently served on their Conference Committee. His library blog is well respected, and he is a sought-after speaker and presenter. His most recent project, the Story Sailboat, works to provide library services and materials, by boat, to advocate for libraries and literacy in the San Francisco Bay area.