Young voters @ your library
Megan McFarlane | November 08, 2012
The library has long been referred to as the cornerstone of democracy, providing free and equal access to information for all people. Adults across the country know that their library is a go-to resource when it comes to being a well-informed participant in the electoral process. Its resources range from hosting local debates and discussions to acting as polling places and helping patrons register to vote.
Young voters played a key role in the 2008 presidential election, a statistic that has since fallen off. The question now is how can the democratic institution of libraries help rebuild the 2008 passion for politics in the next generation of voters. Below are a few stories of what libraries across the country are doing to encourage civic engagement with their youngest users.
During election week, the La Crosse (Wisc.) Public Library will ask young readers the very important question: Who would win: a shark or a train? Inspired by the book Shark vs. Train, by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld, the library has set up a space where children and their parents can read the book and then vote for their choice. When children turn in their ballot to library staff they will receive a sticker, just like adult voters, letting everyone know that they voted.
On Election Day, Norwalk (Conn.) Public Library hosted Kids Can Vote @ your library. Children were encouraged to vote from a list of literary character candidates provided by the library. Stuffed animals and dolls of the candidates were raffled off to children who vote. In addition to voting, children were able to attend a special Election Day Storytime and a screening of a short film about the presidents.
Louisville (Ky.) Free Public Library wants to remind area teens that 2016, when the choice of America’s leaders will fall to them, isn’t that far away. In preparation the library wants to get teens thinking about who they would vote for if they could and by hosting a mock election for teens. Teens will also have the opportunity to meet with one another and discuss the issues that are important to them.
As part of its Election Happening @ your library programs, the Garden City (Mich.) Library held an election where young readers can vote for their favorite book. The library also provides a list of picture books, children’s fiction and nonfiction, and young adult titles that will get children and teens thinking about the importance of the democratic process.
Megan McFarlane is Campaign Coordinator for the Campaign for America’s Libraries with the American Library Association Public Information Office.