Libraries Fare Well Overall at the Ballot Box
Voters showed their library love at the polls November 6 by supporting a series of millages and bond issues for operations and construction around the nation, although there were also some notable disappointments. What follows is a quick snapshot of library-related election results.
- Colorado: Thanks to the passage of Measure 2A in Denver, which enables the city to keep $68 million in property-tax refunds a year beginning in 2013 despite Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights law, Denver Public Library will be able to expand its service hours by 40%, to a minimum of 48 per week. “Denver Public Library will be hiring in 2013! Thank you, voters,” tweeted Children's Collection Specialist Gwen Vanderhage.
- Illinois: A whopping 81% yes vote for a $4.1 million library building referendum will fund the repair, remodeling, and expansion of the Broadview Public Library District’s present facility. When completed, the 21,300-square-foot library will be accessible to people with physical disabilities; feature state-of-the-art technology such as smart boards, self-checkout, and an updated computer lab; and offer a dedicated teen space and media creation lab, free 24-hour access to audiovisual materials with a kiosk similar to a Redbox station, and multipurpose study and meeting rooms.
- Kentucky: Campbell County’s proposal to build a new South branch was defeated in the polls 62% to 38%. In order to build a new library facility, the county would have had to increase the library millage on property taxes 2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, which would have amounted to a 27% hike.
- Maryland: Prince George’s County passed a $45.1 million bond issue for the improvement of facilities in the 19-branch system.
- Michigan: Out of 12 library initiatives, seven were approved (PDF file), including a 10-year, one mill operating levy for the East Lansing Public Library that prompted Director Kristin Shelley to tweet “Thank you, East Lansing!” Among the defeated levies was a $65 million bond proposal that would have funded a new downtown Ann Arbor library building. The initiative met organized resistance: The group Protect Our Libraries campaigned against the proposal with a $21,000 ad buy and web presence whose message was that a new library could cost as much as $130 million over the next 30 years when factoring in bond-debt interest.
- Missouri: 58% of voters in the St. Louis County Library District approved Proposition L, which calls for a 6-cent increase in the library district tax rate; the resulting $108 million will be used to renovate existing branches and replace others with new construction. “We are proud that the voters of the library district had confidence in our vision for taking the St. Louis County Library into the future to benefit our children, families, and seniors,” Director Charles Pace said.
- New Mexico: Voters approved a $9.8 million general obligation bond to provide acquisitions and capital funding for academic, school, tribal, and public libraries around the state.
- Ohio: All 15 millage levies on the ballot passed, including a first-time levy for the Dayton Metro Libraries.
- Oregon: Multnomah County voters approved the formation of a permanent financing district that will raise $65 million annually to fund operations at Multnomah County Library. The yes vote ended a 36-year history of returning to voters every 3–5 years to renew temporary operating levies. This measure is intended to prevent reductions in services, programs, activities, and hours.
- Texas: All three library propositions passed. In Austin, the approval of Proposition 18 enables the city to provide funding for designing, constructing, improving, and equipping library, museum, and cultural arts facilities. In El Paso, voters okayed Proposition 2, a $228.5 million bond issue to upgrade museums and libraries. The passage of Houston’s Proposition D will provide similar improvements for the city through $28 million in bonds that will go to renovate two city branches—the Freed-Montrose Neighborhood Library and the Robinson-Westchase Neighborhood Library—and to replace two others: the Moody and Meyer branches.
- Virginia: In Fairfax County 70% of voters approved a bond that would allocate $10 million of a $25 million bond for the construction of a new Reston Regional Library. The remaining $15 million will fund the renovation of Fairfax County Public Library’s Pohick Regional Library, John Marshall Library, and the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library.
- Washington: Proposition 1 passed with a 58.78% majority in the unincorporated area of the Sedro-Woolley School District, enabling officials to form the Rural Partial-County Library District there through a property-tax levy capped at 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
- Wyoming: A temporary 1-cent sales-tax hike for library construction was passed by 57% of Converse County voters to fund a $23 million expansion of two branches of the Converse County Library, Wyoming State Librarian Lesley D. Boughton told American Libraries. Natrona County Library was not as fortunate, however: An initiative to raise $29.7 million for a new 82,740-square-foot library building lost by 588 votes in a turnout of some 32,000 people overall. It was cold comfort for library supporters to know that the margin of defeat narrowed from the 1,500 margin in 2008 that nixed a more ambitious $43 million proposal for a 96,000-square-foot facility, to be raised through the same temporary funding mechanism.