Guest blog by Dustin Fife, Outreach Librarian at Utah Valley University; President of the Utah Library Association 2015-2016
The Koch Brothers, and their super PAC Americans for Prosperity, are targeting a library referendum with robocalls. They are calling for people to reject a well-planned library project that has been openly discussed and prepared in Plainfield, Illinois. Let me start by saying, that voting against this referendum is the right of every eligible voter and there are many legitimate reasons they might choose to do so. There is no reason to demonize individuals who choose to vote against projects that you or I might support; that is how our country and democracy work.
Our current political system allows large, well-funded, outside interests to intervene in elections. That is simply a fact. I am not fond of our current political finance laws, but that does not change the reality of them. I have watched what is happening unfold in Plainfield with interest and come to a few realizations. Firstly, I love librarians and library supporters, they have responded thoughtfully and energetically. The director of the Plainfield Library District responded realistically and with credible information.
EveryLibrary formed an action campaign and began supporting the fight by raising funds and with social media support. Individual library supporters tweeted, posted, shared, and blogged in order to spread the word. This is a beautiful part of our political system, individuals are allowed to take action and articulate their beliefs.
Secondly, this is exactly why EveryLibrary needs to exist and needs your support. Think about EveryLibrary’s motto: any library initiative anywhere, matters to every library everywhere. It would be very difficult to work in a library and not feel scared by large outside organizations being able to influence local elections. They might not be able to buy the presidency, but a little money can go a long way in a local election. If this can happen in Illinois, it can definitely happen anywhere. EveryLibrary can serve to combat organizations like Americans for Prosperity. EveryLibrary is innovative, flexible, and well-versed in ballot advocacy. They can advise, train, coordinate social media, and generally help respond to these types of threats. In short, you have to fight fire with fire.
Thirdly, continue to respond to these situations, and there will definitely be many more in the future, in any way you can. It is our job to show people why libraries are important and articulate what libraries do. If people do not know why the library is important, that is our fault. If people do not know what libraries do, that is our fault. Respond to these situations with information and, more importantly, with positive stories about how libraries change lives; stories about what role libraries play in our society and democracy. Meet people where they are physically, intellectually, and emotionally. Libraries do change lives. They bolster our democracy and they help people fulfill their dreams.
Fourthly, think about supporting the work of EveryLibrary, because your library and your communities matter to them. If the Koch brothers are allowed to try and shape America to look how they want, so are library supporters!