Here’s our “first look” at over 75 library elections around the country last night, November 4, 2014. All vote totals are unofficial. As ‘official and verified’ tallies come in from Clerks of Election, we will be updating this analysis. In addition, some jurisdictions have not reported as of 4:00pm CST today. Those races have been omitted from this early analysis.
November 2014 Elections tracked: 77 | 68 with unofficial results available
Wins for libraries: 55
Losses for libraries: 14
In the aggregate, at least 1,598,906 votes were cast across the country about library funding or authority yesterday. 950,379 Americans voted Yes for libraries and 648,527 voted NO. But this isn’t a general election or a popular vote about “libraries”. Each of the local races were a question to local folks about their local library. It may have been a town like Gratis, OH where 223 voters came out but said No to a new 1.5 mil levy 43% to 57%. Or it could be a city like Charleston, SC where 94,286 voters decided 74% to 26% in favor of over $100 million in building bonds to create and improve 21st century libraries. As you’ll see in the preliminary results, when there were wins they tended to be big. Where there are losses, they tend to be close. As far as national trends go, the win/loss rate for libraries looks to be about the same as it was in 2013.
There is very little relative difference between the types of measures that won and the kinds that lost. A 1.5 mil levy renewal was just as likely to be in the win column as in the loss column. It’s not what we’re asking for as libraries that matters at the polls. It is the perception that the voters have of how relevant the library is and how impactful the librarians are that tips the scales. Are we answering the “Who is spending our money, and how?” questions for voters. But beyond communications and Get Out the Vote work, we are seeing opposition to libraries – even among the winners (that’s why we exist – to help answer opposition). After working on 19 campaigns this year and watching, interviewing, and studying dozens more, it’s our opinion that the big story for libraries is their local political climate. We’re seeing opposition come from three significant places this year: the local political establishment who run either a ‘no’ campaign in town or runs against the library itself; anti-tax groups who are philosophically opposed to any new taxes; and anti-access groups who do not want to see the library have the funding it needs to serve ‘those people’. We’ll talk more about these opponents as we finish interviews with our campaigns and other on ballots across the county. But we need to talk frankly within our industry about those who oppose libraries, how to address that opposition locally, and how EveryLibrary and other stakeholder groups can provide support.
More to follow as results come in. Thanks to everyone who participated in our #librarywatchparty on twitter and other social media last night. It was fun to share the news about libraries and to join in a conversation together. And please feel free to report any errors or omissions in the data you identify to us, please.