February 28, 2013
John Chrastka is the former membership director at the American Library Association, and has left that position recently to start a political action committee for library advocacy purposes, called Every Library. This organization is about three months old at this point. I had heard of it and realized that I didn’t know anything about it, so I contacted John and asked him some questions. He agreed to be interviewed for this blog. I think our interview goes into a good degree of depth at explaining what Every Library is doing and how you can be involved.
John, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. I want to start simply by asking you to explain what Every Library is and how it got started.
Rory, I appreciate the chance to connect with your readers about EveryLibrary and our work helping local ballot committees talk to voters about libraries. EveryLibrary grew out of a gap in national library advocacy work. The existing associations and organizations that advocate for and support libraries, like ALA, OCLC, the Gates Foundation, and most state library associations, are all 501c3 organizations. They do great advocacy to the public and decision-makers through projects like Geek the Library, the @yourlibrary campaign, and I Love Libraries. They focus their efforts in bringing advocacy messages about the value, impact, and importance of libraries in our communities and campuses – and in the lives of our users – out to new audiences. Their work in D.C. and state capitals to pass legislation affects issues of access and funding. But none of these advocacy groups or campaigns can say “Vote Yes” to the public, directly, on either ballot measures or candidates. As a 501c3 they are not able to use charitably donated monies to do direct voter outreach to endorse a candidate or ballot measure. EveryLibrary exists to fill in that gap, at least when it comes to local ballots. We are set up as a 501c4 social welfare organization. We are intentionally politically active and are technically the first Super PAC for libraries. And as such, we can do advocacy and talk directly to voters and ask them to Vote Yes for a library ballot measure.
That is really intriguing. So what exactly are Every Library’s activities in terms of talking directly to voters?
EveryLibrary is all about building capacity for library political action at the local level. Somewhere near 97% of all public library funding is appropriated locally. We are set up to help local ballot committees and PACs do voter education, outreach, and get out the vote work. We do that in two ways: providing direct funding to the local committee to do an effective “Vote Yes” campaign, and consulting services to help ensure that the messaging is solid, the voter data is useful, and the volunteers are well trained. You won’t see generic commercials from EveryLibrary. If you live in a district with an EveryLibrary backed ballot measure you will see the local committee’s message about their own library and proposition. We’re transparently behind the scenes.
Where does the funding come from to do this work?
To date, we have received 100% of our funding from individual donors. As a c4, we are not eligible for grants or foundation money. Like other politically active organizations we are looking to both small and large individual donors who believe in our mission. We are reaching out the corporate community both inside and outside the library world. And we are approaching unions and other issue-PACs for resources. We are a lean organization and have very little overhead. Every dollar goes to work helping to win on Election Day.
I think many librarians and other library advocates may not be aware of the importance of donating money for this purpose. What are you doing to raise funds from the public? Are you able to do much with the funding that presently is coming in? What do you feel you need to raise to accomplish your goals in addition to what is coming in now? You’re brand new, so I would imagine some potential donors might want to see a track record that there is no way of showing yet. Is that the case?
I am happy to say that we have our first success already! We backed “Yes for Spokane Libraries” on a Feb 12th, 2013 ballot measure. The Spokane Public Library had a $1.6 million 4-year dedicated levy out to the voters. EveryLibrary provided about 25% of the funding to the “Yes…” committee do voter education and get out the vote. The library ran a great informational campaign but the chance to back an active Vote Yes campaign – with phone banking, yard signs, and a little door-to-door canvassing – was wonderful. They won with 66% of the vote. Having EveryLibrary there in such a substantial way was important for them and for us. All that funding came from individual donors.
We have a funding plan in place that will provide us with the resources we need to support several dozen campaigns in the 2014 election cycle while laying the foundation for to support any campaign we’d want in 2015 and beyond. Our fundraising plan is to continue to ask for donations from librarians and library supporters but to broaden the ask to the general public. Whether it is direct mail or telephone solicitations, both cost money to do. We know that we need to build capacity for campaigns so we’re going to be out there doing that kind of fundraising in the fall. But until that time we’re working on telling our story about supporting libraries at the ballot box to some key larger donors who can support our early work.
You referred to Every Library as a “Super Pack,” and mentioned local PACs working on ballot measures, saying that Every Library assists them. What is a Super Pack, technically speaking? And also, regarding the behind-the-scenes work that Every Library does to help local efforts, can you talk about the expertise that your group offers to the local ballot organizers or PACs, what specifically you are doing for them?
The term Super PAC refers to the way we’re organized. As a 501c4 we are a Social Welfare Organization and our charter makes it clear that we do not work on candidates for office at any level of government. Other “regular” PACs do candidates. Super PACs can raise funds from individuals, corporations, unions, and other PACs to support their particular issues – and expend funds to advocate for their issues. Our issue is libraries and our mode of advocacy as a Super PAC for libraries is to work supporting local ballot measures. For example, when a library puts a Bond Issue on the ballot to build the first new library since Carnegie died there are millions of dollars at stake and the potential to have generational impact on that community. If they win, it is a game changer for services, programs, collections, and librarian jobs. If they lose, it could be a huge setback for the community. We work in support of a local PAC or ballot committee to provide seed money to help them campaign as well as technical assistance to run that campaign well, if needed. We can help by looking at the voter data and doing voter segmentation. It is critical to the success of campaigns to “touch” high-turnout voters with your message. We can help by doing pre-polling about voter attitudes about the library and the ballot measure. Knowing where you are going with messaging in your community is important. We also can help with the messaging, design, and outreach techniques from planning through execution. There are a lot of resources we’re ready to bring besides funding.
Right now, we’re helping the “Citizens for a New Shorewood-Troy Library” committee with voter segmentation and developing their precinct ‘walk lists’, working with them on messaging, and training their volunteers on how to do door-to-door canvasing. We’re not involved as part of their committee – they run their campaign and make all the decisions on how to expend their funding. But we help build capacity within their committee as consultants.
Well, I would just like to say that I think what you are doing sounds really great. I am wondering what people can do if they want to support Every Library and show their support. Also, I’m wondering what kind of partnerships you have or are planning to start with other organizations.
We built the organization with small donations – $10 or $100 goes a long way when we’re talking about library ballot measures and voter outreach. When something fails at the polls it doesn’t usually fail by huge numbers. In a district with a service population of 10,000 people, perhaps 6,000 are registered voters and maybe 1,800 will come out for a library election. If they lose by 3% or 4% (which is not atypical), that’s 55 or 60 votes. We think that we can do a lot to educate and influence 61 voters with not too much money. If you agree that this idea matters because every one of those ballot measures matter to the future of that library, you can donate at www.rally.org/everylibrary. We’ll put it right to work.
Throughout the spring we’re going to be announcing several partnerships and key funders that will help extend and expand our work. Stay tuned.
That sounds great, John. This was very informative. I want to encourage readers to donate – it seems like a very effective use of funds. Thanks for doing the interview.
Rory, I truly appreciate the chance to talk about EveryLibrary and to be featured on Library Juice press. It was an engaging interview. Thanks so much.
October 6, 2009
Call for Papers
*Politics, Libraries and Culture: Historical Perspectives*
*Library History Round Table (LHRT) Research Forum, June 2010*
The Library History Round Table (LHRT) of the American Library Association (ALA) seeks papers for its Research Forum at the 2010 ALA Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., June 24-29, 2010. The theme of the Forum will be historical perspectives on the ways in which politics and libraries interact and influence one another. In this instance, politics should be considered broadly—not simply as concerning the administration of governments (international, national, state, local) but also the politics of other institutions and groups. Possible topics might be the effects politics have had on the history of libraries, archives, government documents and other cultural records. How have individual and institutional efforts of librarians influenced public policy pertaining to information access, reading, and services to the public? How have political concerns shaped the collection, preservation, availability and use of libraries and other repositories in different periods, locations, and jurisdictions? How have libraries, archives, and similar institutions tried to shape information politics and society through copyright law, the right to read, public library funding and other efforts?
LHRT welcomes submissions from researchers of all backgrounds, including students, faculty, and practitioners. Proposals are due on November 30, 2009. Each proposal must give the paper title, an abstract (up to 500 words), and the scholar’s one-page vita. Also, please indicate whether the research is in-progress or completed. Proposals should include the following elements: a problem or thesis the study addresses, a statement of significance, objectives, methods, primary sources used for the research, and conclusions (or tentative conclusions for works in progress).
From the submissions, the LHRT Research Committee will select several authors to present their completed work at the Forum. The program will be publicized in January 2010. So that the Forum’s facilitator may introduce and react to each author, completed papers are due June 4, 2010. The Research Forum will likely occur on Sunday, June 27, 2010. All presenters must register to attend the conference. For registration options, see ALA’s events and conferences page at http://www.ala.org/ .
*DEADLINE FOR PROPOSALS*: November 30, 2009
*DEADLINE FOR COMPLETED PAPERS: * June 4, 2010
Please submit proposals and direct inquiries to:
*Melanie A. Kimball
LHRT Vice-Chair/Research Committee Chair*
*Graduate School of Library and Information Science
300 The Fenway*
*Boston**, MA 02115*
Telephone: (617) 521-2795
September 17, 2009
The Pennsylvania legislature has passed a bill that funds the Philadelphia Free Library to stay open. News on their blog.
I’m glad but frankly still really disturbed by the whole thing.
April 5, 2009
Stephen L. Carter, a law professor who writes about democracy, has an article in The Daily Beast entitled, “Where’s the Bailout for the Publishing Industry?”
Like a lot of writers, I am wondering when Congress and the administration will propose a bailout for the publishing industry. Carnage is everywhere. Advances slashed, editors fired, publicity at subsistence levels, entire imprints vanished into thin air. Moreover, unlike some of the industries that the government, in its wisdom, has decided to subsidize, the publishing of books is crucial to the American way of life.
Books are essential to democracy. Not literacy, although literacy is important. Not reading, although reading is wonderful. But books themselves, the actual physical volumes on the shelves of libraries and stores and homes, send a message through their very existence. In a world in which most things seem ephemeral, books imply permanence: that there exist ideas and thoughts of sufficient weight that they are worth preserving in a physical form that is expensive to produce and takes up space. And a book, once out there, cannot be recalled. The author who changes his mind cannot just take down the page.
February 5, 2009
The Fair Copyright Act is to fair copyright what the Patriot Act was to patriotism. It would repeal the OA policy at the NIH and prevent similar OA policies at any federal agency. The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where Conyers is Chairman, and where he has consolidated his power since last year by abolishing the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property. The Judiciary Committee does not specialize in science, science policy, or science funding, but copyright. ”
The Conyers bill is back
Open Access News: News from the open access movement
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
September 8, 2008
Amy Goodman and David Goodman (of Democracy Now) have an article in the current Mother Jones magazine about the great Windsor, Connecticut librarians’ defiance of the FBI and the PATRIOT Act and ultimate court victory for all of us on constitutional grounds.
August 6, 2008
A Marxist Analysis of the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (PDF)
Policy Futures in Education
Volume 4 Number 4, 2006
London South Bank University, United Kingdom
This article examines the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). There are many WTO Agreements, but TRIPS is likely to have significant implications for areas such as information, education and libraries. The article provides an overview of TRIPS in general. Various intellectual property rights (IPRs) are covered in TRIPS, including copyright, patents, trademarks, geographical indications, industrial designs, integrated circuit designs and “trade secrets”. It then considers the implications of TRIPS for information provision, focusing in particular on copyright and patents. Finally, it examines the TRIPS within an Open Marxist theoretical perspective. The author argues that TRIPS is fundamentally about transforming IPRs into internationally tradable commodities. Marx began his analysis of capitalism in Capital volume one with “the commodity”. We need to get back to basic Marxism and to make it applicable to the global capitalist world that we find ourselves in today. Thus, capitalism is essentially about the commodification of all that surrounds us and the TRIPS assists with this process. Value that is extracted from labour, and largely from intellectual labour, becomes embedded in internationally tradable commodities (such as patents) that are created and socially validated by TRIPS. Profit is derived from this value and through this process global capitalism is extended and intensified.
May 23, 2008
CLOSED EPA LIBRARIES TO RETURN IN LAVATORY-SIZED SPACES; Political Appointee Asserts Control over All Libraries, Repeals 30-Year-Old Manual
“Ordered by Congress to re-open its shuttered libraries, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is grudgingly allocating only minimal space and resources, according to agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).”…
Thanks to Jonathan Betz-Zall for sending this info to the ALA Council list.
June 29, 2007
I will simply refer you to the ALA blog District Dispatch and let you read it there…
May 31, 2007
From ALA’s Washington Office:
Please contact your Senators and ask them to support the OPEN Government Act of 2007 (S. 849), and to urge Majority Leader Harry Reid or Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to support bringing the bill to the floor in early June. Unfortunately — and ironically, since this is an open government bill — there remains an anonymous hold on the bill preventing it from being scheduled. See Senator Leahy’s Press Release.
S. 849 is the result of the bipartisan efforts of Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy and Committee Member John Cornyn, both sponsors of the bill. The OPEN Government Act has bipartisan support in the Senate, and the bill includes reforms to reduce backlogs, delays, and restrictions in responding to FOIA requests; provide incentives for agency compliance; and in general, strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, ensuring openness and accountability from federal agencies.
The House passed a companion bill, the Freedom of Information Act of 2007 (H.R. 1309), on March 15, by a substantial margin of 308 to 117.
ALA recently joined over 100 business, public interest, and historical associations to endorse S. 849 and urge the Senate leaders to schedule a vote. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world‚Äôs largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations, recently urged support of S.849 (PDF).
The OPEN Government Act would demonstrate bipartisan Congressional leadership and would help to boost public confidence in government. Please urge your Senators to support this important legislation and to ensure the bill’s quick movement to the Senate floor for a vote.
For more information and tools to show your support, go to ALA’s Legislative Action Center (hosted by Capwiz).
May 11, 2007
Arch Conservative Bush advisor Grover Norquist has been pushing the “Starve the Beast” strategy for a long time. This is the strategy that says run up a huge budget debt and then a future Congress will be unable to support government spending. The “War on Terror” is obviously the great implementation of the starve the beast strategy.
So as the “beast” is starved, little by little, services that exist for the public good die off.
That’s the way to think about the threatened closure of the Savanna River Ecology Laboratory and closures of many other facilities, including federal libraries. In this particular situation, it has to do with the Department of Energy running out of money, and the guidance of Bush appointees on how to use what is left.
I hate to be pessimistic, but considering everything, what we are up against now, in terms of the survival of librarianship as an institution for the public good, seems overwhelming.
May 10, 2007
Bernadine Abbott Hoduski shared this information with ALA Council today…
The ALA Washington Office and ALA Council’s Committee on Legislation have started a wiki on federal libraries. The wiki says:
The purpose of this wiki is to share and track information on federal library threats, re-organizations, and closings. Based on discussions with members, the main focus is to facilitate reporting of threats or closings that will enable users to make comments about that specific library’s situation.
Not much is there yet, but it may turn out to be a very important resource for protecting these important information resources.
April 17, 2007
Media critic and theorist Robert McChesney is spearheading the campaign against the postal rate hike, which has Time Warner and other major magazine publishers’ money behind it.
This is from the campaign website:
Postal regulators have accepted a proposal from media giant Time Warner that would stifle small and independent publishers in America. The plan unfairly burdens smaller publishers with higher postage rates while locking in special privileges for bigger media companies.
In establishing the U.S. postal system, the nation’s founders wanted to ensure that a diversity of viewpoints were available to “the whole mass of the people.” Time Warner’s rate increase reverses this egalitarian ideal and threatens the marketplace of ideas on which our democracy depends.
It’s time stand up for independent media. Demand that Congress step in to stop the unfair rate hikes. The deadline for comments to the Postal Service is fast approaching.
Sign the letter before April 23 to alert Congress and put the Postal Board of Governors on notice.
April 12, 2007
Text from the ALA campaign for this legislation:
Next week, to celebrate National Library Week, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) plans to introduce the Librarian Act of 2007. The Librarian Act of 2007 amends the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for Perkins student loan forgiveness to encourage individuals to become and remain librarians in low-income schools and public libraries.
ALA uses Capwiz.com to help with grassroot lobbying of congressmembers, in case you were wondering why that page looks like a page on ALA’s website but has a different domain name.
I found this on the Librarians livejournal.
March 14, 2007
The Presidential Records Act of 2007 is a bill presently in Congress that would overturn Bush’s Presidential Order 13233 of 2001, which was one of many outrageous secrecy measures of the Bush Administration, this one case giving former presidents the power to prevent access to their papers for many years.
Kathleen de la Peña McCook has blogged other aspects of this bill and the movement to support it.
Note from the next day, Thursday, March 15: The bill passed Congress yesterday, and, surprise surprise, Bush has promised to veto it.