Elections, whether they are local, provincial or federal offer unique opportunities to advocate for public libraries. For Trustees it may be the single greatest opportunity to increase awareness about this important community service both in its successes and its challenges. At election time, at forums and through the media, trustees can:
How Do We Accomplish This?
- Reach large numbers of the public through questions to candidates and personal contact.
- Determine candidate vision, knowledge and support for public libraries
- Raise the profile of individual trustees and Boards through their participation in the election process
- Acknowledge the commitment to/record of government regarding public libraries
- Provide those running for office with current information regarding public libraries
Please consider the following information as suggestions for some ways to raise the profile of libraries and library issues during the upcoming campaign.
The approach taken by your Board does not need to complex. It can be as simple as identifying questions for candidates, assigning Trustees to present these questions at all-candidates' meetings and reporting back to the Board.
Ideally, questions should be presented during an all candidates’ meeting as it increases the exposure of your topic and the candidate’s response. If there are no forums being organized, you may wish to take the initiative to organize one, especially if there are political decisions upcoming regarding your library. If a meeting’s not your style, a “Tea with the Candidates” hosted in the library, might work.
Another method to keep library issues in the public eye is to indicate to the media that you would like them to get responses to library issues included in interviews for newspapers, radio or TV.
If an all candidates' meeting or forum is not possible, you can still collect very good information by inviting the candidates to a regular or special Board meeting. Or alternatively, asking your questions through a letter or e-mail to all candidates similar to the sample shown below.
Letter or e-mail:
To: All Candidates for the Office of _________
From: ___________Public Library Board
Good morning -
This message is being sent to all candidates running in the upcoming local
election. In order to understand your views on municipal/regional public
libraries, we are asking that you take a minute to reply to this message
with your responses to the questions noted below.
Thank-you for your time.
Chair, _____________ Public Library Board
Add your specific questions here.
You may also want to publish these candidates responses and post them in your library, distribute them at future all candidates' meetings or share them with the press. If you plan to do this, be sure to indicate your intentions in your initial letter to the candidates.
General Guidelines and Sample Questions:
As the next election is local, most of your questions will be community specific. However, we have provided some sample questions below that you may wish to use or modify. Whatever your questions, you should always keep the following guidelines in mind:
- take the “high road”
- focus on the candidate’s realm of responsibility
Sample questions for a local election:
The Provincial Strategic Plan for Libraries encourages Boards to pursue additional fund-raising activities. Do you agree? It is suggested that Boards partner with the private sector, and/or NGO’s and other library organizations. Do you see any issues arising from such an initiative? Could this lessen a government’s responsibility to adequately fund public libraries? Where does this leave small communities that lack corporate presence?
As an elected official, what would you be willing to do to get the Provincial Government to increase their share (their per capita grants) of funding for public libraries?
Could you tell me how familiar you are with the Provincial Government’s Strategic Plan for Libraries – Libraries without Walls and your feelings on that initiative?
Are you aware of the current campaign around Canada Post’s Book Rates? Are you prepared to support an expansion of the “book rate” to include, not only books, but other libraries collection items such as DVDs, CDs, etc.
What services and programs do you find most helpful/useful at the library?
How do you view InterLINK and the OneCard concept?
What was the last book you read? (This may tell you about who they are, than all the other questions asked.)