New library PAC to address library funding shortfalls and hold politicians accountable.
By Ove Overmyer
President, CSEA City of Rochester, N.Y. Library Workers Local 828 Unit 7420
Rochester, N.Y. -- Finally! Now we are getting somewhere. For far too long, libraries and library advocates have been too waifish in their attempt to deal with struggling local government budgets and the policy makers that think its ok to decimate our libraries and library systems. But now, thanks to a new national Political Action Committee (PAC) called EveryLibrary, the feeble advocacy efforts of the past just might become a distant memory.
Say hello to EveryLibrary—a newly formed PAC that will raise funds nationally and spend them on local library ballot initiatives like tax rates, bonds, and other referenda.
In the past, libraries have been able to ride out bad times and accept small reductions in services, collections, and hours. Justifiable so, many library administrators have wilted under the pressure of their local lawmakers telling them that they have no choice in how many public dollars are allocated for their libraries and library systems. Well, the time has come to say to them, “We beg to differ.”
The financial hit libraries have absorbed in the past few years has now become much too deep and is inflicting fatal wounds to needed library service around the country. EveryLibrary will offer effective strategies and resources to address library budget shortfalls and hold local politicians accountable.
New PAC not bound by IRS rules
This will be a nonpartisan organization, registered under section 501c4 of the U.S. Internal Revenue code. The plan is that it will also serve as a consulting organization for libraries on their political campaigns. Organizers hope it will ultimately back the purchase of space and time in the media to deliver the message to voters on the value of and need for all types of libraries and library systems.
EveryLibrary is not bound by the IRS rules against direct voter advocacy that have hamstrung the efforts of the American Library Association (ALA) and other organizations that maintain 501c3 status as “charitable organizations.” The IRS allows contributions to these groups to be deducted from federal taxes but forbids them from spending more than a small portion of their efforts or funds on campaigning. It also forbids 501c3 groups from doing any advocacy whatsoever for particular candidates.
EveryLibrary is currently engaged in an initial $50,000 fundraising round until November 7 to underwrite legal fees and create campaign toolkits, voter education materials, and messaging targeted to 2013 election initiatives.
John Chrastka, who is the primary thinker behind EveryLibrary, expects staff will be added to help with library activities. He says EveryLibrary’s charter and bylaws will be shared with the library community in October for comment and feedback.
Chrastka, president of the Board of Trustees of the Berwyn Public Library, IL, is a partner in AssociaDirect, a Chicago-based consultancy supporting associations in membership recruitment and conference and governance operations. He served as director for membership development at the American Library Association (ALA) until August 2011 and is chair of the Illinois Library Association Fundraising Committee. EveryLibrary is needed now more than ever.
Anti government and anti-tax forces like the Tea Party and Grover Norquist have beaten back library enterprises much more frequently in recent years. Consequently, Mayors of several major U.S. cities have targeted library budgets for reduction despite their tiny share of city taxes. Additionally, Governors from both major political parties have savaged state funding for public services.
While it is obvious that there is still massive public support for libraries, the current political climate is ideal to further the cause of those who see government as the problem and not the solution. The combination of the recent economic recession and anti-tax rhetoric is poisonous to all public agencies and institutions, and libraries are in the crosshairs. The creation of EveryLibrary can be seen as a direct, aggressive way to combat these toxic forces.
In the past, libraries have been able to ride out bad times and accept small reductions in services, collections, and hours. We library workers have often been told to do “more with less.” But now, we must scream from the rooftops that it is unacceptable to not properly fund libraries-- that “less really means less and not more.” We are here to say that library workers and administrators alike will no longer be pushed around in political circles.
In 2012, these pecuniary losses have now become much too deep and are inflicting real harm to necessary essential library services—especially right here in Rochester, N.Y. We wholeheartedly welcome EveryLibrary to the national stage— and we hope it offers a counterbalance to stem the tide of diminishing the true value libraries offer their local communities.
To donate to EveryLibrary, you can go here.