Civic Engagement @ your library
Angela Hanshaw | October 13, 2009
The ALA Public Programs Office asked librarians to share their stories of civic engagement at the local library, specifically surrounding the 2008 presidential election season. Did their libraries host programs or activities during the 2008 presidential election to discuss issues and help voters make informed decisions? Is part of their libraries’ missions to build civic literacy and responsibility in the community? As always, librarians came through for us, sharing stories as well as images and PR materials.
Carol Luers Eyman, Outreach and Community Services Coordinator for the Nashua Public Library, provided the image that accompanies this blog post and offered:
Last fall, the Nashua (NH) Public Library held a penny poll. Customers “voted” by dropping coins into jars labeled “McCain” and “Obama.” The money was counted a few days before the election, and the results mirrored those of the real vote:
Barack Obama: $228.62
John McCain: $110.87
The penny poll is a tradition at the Nashua Public Library. As measured by total contributions, “voter” participation in the poll was up 98 percent over 2004, when the contest between George W. Bush and John Kerry raised $171.64. That year, Kerry won the poll, accurately reflecting the election result in New Hampshire but not, of course, the nation.
The 2008 total proceeds of $339.49 were donated to the Humane Society for Greater Nashua.
Scott Doser, Program Coordinator for the Wilkinson Public Library, commented:
The Wilkinson Public Library in Telluride, Colorado, has made the mission of offering programs on civic literacy and responsibility a priority. In the months preceding the 2008 presidential election we held four programs in our “Just the Facts” series that provide the community a forum to discuss issues of concern to voters. The library prepared fact sheets that stated the candidates proposed policies and position statements and voting records on issues important to our citizens. We continued the forum with a follow-up program on President Obama’s 100th day in Office and plan to offer a program looking back on the administration’s first year.
The Wilkinson Pubic Library also hosts live forums, films and discussions on civic issues important to our community members. These programs covers a variety of local, regional, state, national and global topics including: global warming, forest health, water use issues, human rights, fair trade practices, the Supreme Court and the law, and community food, energy and recycling programs. Tonight we are hosting a live debate between nine Candidates for three positions opening on our Town council in the November election. All of our civic programs are presented in a way to stimulate community dialog, provide voters and residents with “facts” and to encourage patrons to think, reflect, and research available information prior to going to the polls.
Carol Heepke with the Boulder Public Library wrote:
We have a monthly GeoPolitics discussion group which held 2 programs on what the likely foreign policies of each candidate would be in Sept. and Oct. of 2008. Those were co-sponsored with Boulder United Nations Association group. We also opened up our 218 seat auditorium and showed the inauguration coverage on the BIG screen. People came and went from that all day but the morning, with the swearing in, etc. was packed!
We have held programs on civility in local politics in the past and often host local candidate forums, cosponsored with groups such as the League of Women Voters and the Sierra Club.
We’ll be sharing more of these great ideas as we receive them. And, as always, feel free to share your own in the comments below.
Angela Hanshaw is Program Officer/Web Editor for the ALA Public Programs Office.