Step 1: Are We Ready?

As a library board, consider if the time is appropriate for your library to initiate the public vote process. Consider the internal condition of your library and the current dynamics in your community. Here are some questions to help you decide if the time is right:

1. Why are you going for a vote?

Having a clear justification for why a vote is necessary will provide clarity and purpose, which is necessary for convincing the public. Identifying clear, concise reasons for your vote is an important starting place.

2. Do you have the full board's support for this vote and at least one board member who is willing to take the lead?

A successful vote requires the contribution of several people, with at least one person taking the leadership role in overseeing the library's campaign. Make sure you can identify one person who is able to do this.

3. Do you have a working relationship with your town officials?

Lack of support from town leaders, with their clout and influence in the community, can be detrimental to a library's vote. Early in the process, find out how supportive your town officials are. Before publicly announcing your vote plans, sit down with them and explain what you are doing. Remind them that a public vote takes the onus of a tax increase off them and gives it to the community. If they aren't supportive, ask that they remain publicly neutral. If they are blatantly opposed, you need to carefully consider your strategy.

4. Can you get the number of votes needed to win?

Chances are good that you can get enough votes to win if you work from your built-in group of supporters: your users. Use the strategy suggested in Appendix A: Voter Matrix, which directs you to determine how many votes can be gleaned from your high-volume users.

Libraries tend to have a real advantage when it comes to public votes for several reasons:

  • They have a built in constituency of supporters made up of library cardholders.
  • They can register unregistered cardholders to garner more votes.
  • Historically, public libraries have had a low percentage of library users turn out to support their votes. If you can activate the majority of your library users, it is almost certain that you will win. (Keep in mind that turnout is greatly influenced by the time that your vote is held. Votes held on General Election days will automatically have a higher turnout.)

In short, connecting with and mobilizing users is your best strategy for success.

5. Have you involved library staff and enlisted their support?

Staff members are the image emissaries of the library and therefore, have a significant impact on the success of your vote. Although they cannot actively promote the vote, their personal buy-in, input, and user interactions can be critical to the vote's success. Be sure to involve them early on in the process.

6. Can you identify allies in the community who will likely support your cause?

It is essential to be able to identify a variety of groups, such as business/community leaders, town board members, members of community organizations, etc. and a list of respected individuals within your community who are likely to support your vote. This will provide the grassroots support and credibility needed for success. Do you have groups that will support you?

7. What is the political landscape in your community? What other issues are percolating in the community that could impact your success?

  • Did your town just do a reassessment? If so, the community might be less likely to support you because of their recent increase in taxes.
  • What other votes/referendums are taking place at the same time as your vote? Are they likely to threaten the success of yours? (Ex. school district vote)
  • What town agencies or organizations compete for similar funding?
Point to Ponder:

"There is not necessarily such a thing as a bad year to do a vote.
There are always advantages and disadvantages whenever you decide to do it."

- Steven Cook, Director, Starr Library, (Rhinebeck) NY

Continue to Step 2


Part 1: Facing Your Fears
Part 2: Frequently Asked Questions About Library Votes
Part 3: Determine if You are Ready for a Vote

- Step 1: Are We Ready
- Step 2: We're Ready: How to Get Started
- Step 3: Ready-Set-Go: Putting the Pieces in Place
Part 4: Lesson Learned from Library Votes: Words from the Wise
Part 5: Additional Resources to Help You with Your Vote
Part 6: Voter Matrix/Magic Quadrant


This toolkit was created on behalf of the 2005-2007 Getting to Yes (GTY) project. GTY is funded by Federal Library Services and Technology Act funds, awarded to the New York State Library by the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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