We’re sorry to report that both Kern County, CA. and Oakley, CA. lost their measures yesterday. They both got simple majorities but not the 66% they needed to pass. Oakley will likely go back to the drawing board on a new library for their growing town. Kern County Library faces a huge budget problem and a massive structural deficit without this new funding. For both communities, we were involved with their staff on Info-Only and their YES committees on GOTV. We are proud of the Yes for a New Oakley Library committee and the Advocates for Library Enhancement in Kern. We were honored by the chance to participate in their work.
The Problem for Kern County
Kern County Library is one of the lowest funded libraries in California. The residents of Kern desperately need a better funding structure for their library. For the last 18 months, EveryLibrary has been working with a group of dedicated and passionate citizens who formed a committee called Advocates for Library Enhancement (ALE) to fight to improve their community with a stronger library system. Throughout this time we’ve watched and advised as they worked through a wide range of obstacles in their community. We were able to meet with the administration of Kern Library early in the process, as well as many of the administrators of county government and local Union. We were able to offer them a small seed funding round for their campaign committee and provide some support through pro-library Facebook ads that spoke to the importance of libraries. We are very proud of the work that the committee did to overcome obstructive county commissioners and immoral practices from a local consultant paid for by the opposition. Through all of this, the citizens committee fought on and overcame them to get Measure F on the Ballot.
Measure F was a simple 1/8 cent sales tax that would have generated $15 million dollars a year. Considering that the current budget for the 24 branches is just $8 million dollars, or around $300,000 a year per branch with a material budget of just $10,000 per year per branch (less than $1,000 per month for new books), this influx of funding would have allowed so many improvements. It would have improved hours, provided more programs and services, expanded collections, and so much more. While this measure would have passed in many other states where a simple majority is necessary, this tax measure in California required a supermajority and therefore failed to pass.
Nobody saw Trump coming
One of the biggest influences that we are seeing in this election and in other failed library referenda like the one in Plainfield, Il., is a motivated base of supporters who hate government and taxes. These voters are coming out to support a candidate who they feel represents them and that factor needs to be taken seriously in library campaigns across the country. More voters are turning out who might vote against the library, not because they hate libraries, but because they see the library as a proxy for all the other government institutions that they are against. They are motivated to show up at the polls by Trump’s theatrics and they are motivated to vote against the government no matter what services are being provided to them by the government. Libraries need an answer to this kind of rhetoric and we are building the data for that answer.
That’s why it’s not a complete loss for libraries
Kern is a county that is staunchly anti-government and anti-tax. While the data that we are getting back from this campaign leads us to believe that the citizens do support their library, the anti-government and anti-tax sentiments could not be overcome. We had a great political strategist on the ground who collected amazing data about the campaign that we can use to help us in future fights, whether those fights occur in Kern or Kansas or New York. This kind of data will be used to help us identify library supporters in other areas of the country, and help us build our messaging and targeting in other campaigns. We will have a much more detailed analysis of the data in the weeks to come. We invite you to learn with us.
Your support is what allows us to build this data and fight for library funding. We need people like you who support and love libraries to sign the pledge to support libraries. Please consider giving a small monthly donation or a larger one-time donation so that we can continue to fight for libraries. We can’t do this work without you.