Welcome to Circulating Ideas podcast, I’m David Lankes of Syracuse University, sitting in for Steve Thomas who was recently abducted by space aliens and we’re all praying for his safe return. My guest today is John Chrastka of EveryLibrary. EveryLibrary is a political action committee set up specifically to advance local library ballot initiatives.
John, if I could ask you to give our listeners a quick refresher on what is a PAC, political action committee?
Thanks, David. Nice to be here chatting with you. A political action committee is set up under the IRS regulations. A little bit different than most of the advocacy groups that we work with every day in library land. Associations, foundations, other non-profits are set up under 501C3 and I’m hitting the emphasis on 3 because the way that they’re set up and that particular part of the code lets them do certain things in terms of professional development, in terms of issue advocacy, in terms of professional advocacy as well. But there’s certain caps on how much money a C3 can spend when it comes to doing direct voter engagement. Those caps are appropriate because when you donate money to a C3, either through your dues or some other sort of charitable, you get a tax deduction for that and the IRS wants to make sure that those deducted monies are spent in appropriate ways to advance the mission and purpose of that association, foundation, or other nonprofit or charity. EveryLibrary is set up instead as a 501(c)(4) and that one digit makes a great deal of difference when it comes to speaking to voters directly about issues that impact the library advocacy eco-system. Well, we don’t have a churnable deduction for our money because 100% of the money we raise from individuals, corporations, unions and other political action committees goes to work advancing the cause of speaking to voters about the, the issue at hand. So we’re set up as a political action committee, it’s also called a social welfare organization. We’re chartered to work on issues that are before the voters, a bond or a millage, a levee, a personal tax, a, there’s a lot of different names for these measures, But when you put them before the voters, we need to speak to them in a way that is strident and focused on success on that election day.
So, you know, I remember from your previous podcast, you talked about the fact that you’re not here to support people, this isn’t a candidate selection, vote for so-and-so. This is really about library initiatives, funding initiatives, bonding initiatives, that kind of thing. Is that correct?
That’s right. We don’t work at all, in any way shape or form on any candidates for office at any level of government. There are certain political action structures that can do that. It might be appropriate in some case for the library community to start considering that, but that’s not how we’re built. We’re built to focus on the issue at hand and in fact lobby the voters instead of lobbying individual politicians. When there’s something before the voters, it is usually a generational impacter in that community, meaning that if you’re going to renew a basic tax to the library, it usually lasts for 5, 10, 20 years, that you’re going to build a new building, I mean if they ask the voters for approval of that money, that’s a generational issue in that community and it’s one that we need, that we’re set up to speak to those folks about on that particular election day.
Okay, I want to talk about the rapid response fund, but let me put that off for just one second because. So I’m a librarian, I’m gonna have a bond issue, we’re gonna build a new library. How does EveryLibrary help me?
Well, there’s two ways that we help. One is, okay, so we do a lot of everyday advocacy, we focus on keep the library, libraries build communities, ask your library, turn the page type approach to things. All of that works really fantastically for the 364 days of the year, that are looking at general library use, an affinity for the library. On election day, it’s a weird day and there’s a skill set that a lot of librarians don’t have, a lot of staff don’t have, even if you run a partial tax or a bond initiative before, which was probably a long time ago, so some of the institutional memory is missing, what we do is embody the institutional memory of running a successful campaign. We come in and help train and coach staff, trustees, friends and foundation volunteers of a high level about how to run, plan and run an effective informational campaign. On public time, with public money, there’s a responsibility to talk to the public about what this initiative is going to do. If it’s to build a new building, let’s talk about a strategic building plan. If it’s to get a new parcel tax in place, or a new millage in place, let’s talk about what that new money’s going to do. So we root our training and coaching in the strategic and management plan of the library and talk about specific techniques within the law to do that on public time, in the public trust, at the public library. Likewise, often in communities there’s a group of citizens who come together to support that initiative as an independent group filed under local law to set up a vote yes committee. Most of the work we do is on vote yes, so I’m got some interesting stories about some vote no things too. But, on the vote yes side, we provide advice and consulting for them to, again, plan and run a strident, get out to vote campaign using much more of the traditional political speech approach as opposed to what the library staff has to do in an informational account that’s. So, we try to add capacity to both hands, if you will. Instead of having one hand tied behind their back, like we would otherwise without us in play. So, yeah, the work that we do on these campaigns is, in some ways, focused on the librarian, instead of just the institution because there needs to be a candidate in the race when there’s something for the voters, the voters need to see who the human beings are who are gonna, not literally lay the bricks for that new building, but actualize the plan for the institution. Those human beings who are going to do that transformative work in that new building, for example, so we teach that on both the informational side as well as on the vote yes side.
Now when you, the earlier podcast you mentioned you’d be sort of up and running ready to go by 2014, are you matching your timeline at this point?
We’re doing real well, David. Last year, 2013, was our first full year, we did seven campaigns, we won five, we’re about 15.1 million in stable tax revenue for those libraries. This year, 2014, we’re projecting to do 21 campaigns. We want to be able to be impactful in the library funding ecosystem. So far this year we’ve done 6 campaigns and won 5 for about 9.2 million. We’ve got 16 campaigns already, well actually we’re going to be announcing several during Annual, coming up the end of this week, and we expect to build out up to 20 or 21 campaigns by the time things are done, so, yes, we’re cooking with gas right now man.
[laughs] Very good. So let’s talk about, you just recently announced a new thing called the Rapid Response Fund. Can you tell us a little bit about what the Rapid Response Fund is? And how librarians you see participating?
Sure, so while the core of our work is on election days, there is a massive amount of money at stake for libraries, of course, in city councils, county government, border selectman, all the different structures that are, that are locally impactful on a general fund or specific library fund that comes through a municipal already, or some sort of a county authority or parish authority or whatever it may be. There are little crisis moments that any of us who’ve been around libraries for more than 15 minutes have seen, where, you know, things are moving along nicely in the, the budget process, a library board and staff have put together a smart budget for next fiscal year, there’s been a couple of budget hearings, some part of, you know, seeing at city council or a county government, and then something goes wrong. Something goes wrong, not from a planning perspective, or a financial perspective, but from a political perspective in town. Some member of city council, some member of the county board, throws a shoe, you know, gets a little bit off, really, it becomes a political situation where somebody says no to a library in a way that’s not necessarily reasonable about the community and sometimes it’s personal to them, sometimes it is political to their own future, but it’s a last-minute problem. You know, the last budget hearing, the chair of the budget committee’s all set to go, some member of the committee says no, the budget and we’ve got a week to figure out how to essentially lobby the rest of council to ignore their colleague and say yes to the library’s funding needs, that have been arrived at through an open and transparent process, that’s consultative in ways lead by the board of trustees or commissioners, that’s had a good buy-in from the community, and yet that one person, that one vote on a board of 6, 8, 10, 11 people is going to ruin the library’s budget because that happens. It doesn’t happen all the time, it doesn’t happen every day, but when it does, you need to put some crisis communications into play. The library community in that local place has a lot of legitimacy. It’s a staff, it’s the trustees, it’s the Friends who step up as the legitimate local advocates of the library and they put out a call to action. They put out a call to action that says we need you to tell the city council, we need you to call your city council members, we need you to talk to the people that you know, to have them write letters, send emails, make phone calls, that’s fantastic, that’s appropriate, that gets done. What doesn’t always get done David is that we don’t always spend money on putting out advertising and marketing support to those calls to action. EveryLibrary as a political action committee is in a position legally to make expenditures to spend money on advertising and marketing to the public about an issue that is related to libraries, library funding, the future of libraries in those communities. So, we’re raising money right now from librarians and from the public and from vendors and from corporate in order to build a bank and spend some money on helping those local library advocates get their legitimate calls to action out. And when I say legitimate, I mean that not in a sense of someone who’s diligent about it, I mean that it is inherent and incumbent in the community that this institution needs to exist. And if we can put some dollars behind their calls to action, on Facebook, Adwords, Twitter, social media, traditional media, banner ads, things like that and move their calls to action out from the echo chamber and move it out quickly, to get that to happen, we know from experience that we can help turn the tide. And turning the tide means we get that budget passed for the next fiscal year.
And you mentioned, you know, you have some experience in this. Can you talk a little bit about, in your release and your information about the program, you mentioned a situation in Miami, Florida, correct?
Sure, sure. Last year, in Miami Dade County, it’s a long story, the “too long; didn’t read” version of it, is that the budget was progressing very nicely, through the normal regular order process through the county commission. Last year, in 2013, at the 11th hour, or maybe the 10th hour, the mayor of Miami Dade County said that the library budget needed to be cut by something like 50% because everything’s on the internet, we don’t need a library. That sent a shockwave through the local community in Miami Dade County and folks who were looking at having their branches cut back or closed, folks who were looking at their collection disappearing, folks who were looking to suddenly start missing librarians in their lives stood up and they said we don’t want this to happen, we would like to tell the county commission that the levy needs to be maintained and that this cut needs to be filled by some extraordinary means. So a group got together and formed the Save Miami Dade County Public Library group, it was an ad-hoc group, but their legitimacy came from the fact that it was comprised of local advocates, local stakeholders, the call to action was clear, that they needed to get certain members of the county commission to come to understand how important the library was in their lives and that we were able to, after having some good conversations with them, put some money behind their calls to action. We didn’t set the agenda, they had a legitimate agenda going and a very effective agenda going, what they had to do was talk to 1.2 million human beings who lived in that community, and, in some places, target it down to the very specific zip codes that certain commissioners have constituents in and we were able to do that with targeted, smart advertising in support of their message. EveryLibrary didn’t have a brand out there, we didn’t have an EveryLibrary call to action, we didn’t muddy the waters with an additional set of advocate voices. We focused money on talking to the public and getting folks out and they did a good job of it with that. They were able to, to reset the budget discussion in September of 2013, have some backfill happen from other funding sources to help plug the hole in the, the operating and we were able to help them get out literally hundreds of people to come out and, and talk to county commissioners, do rallies, do signs and phone calls and emails, all the things that grassroots does so well. Very proud to do that and that model of putting targeted smart money behind those local grass roots calls to action saved the library that year. Now, we’re still with them on this project because there’s a structural deficit there that is going to be a hangover from 2013 unless it gets fixed in 2014 through the 2015 budget and we’re part of that as well when it comes to helping them plan good strategy and the build coalition, but the fundamental is if we didn’t have a bank for them, we didn’t have resources for them, we didn’t have some cash on hand for them to put that advertising out the mix, they would have fallen short. A couple of dollars in advertising restores millions of dollars in the budget.
It’s a great story, but I like the fact you said it’s the, it’s not done yet, because I think a lot of people looked with horror at Miami and then thought yay, it’s fixed, but it’s not fixed, it’s, temporarily fixed.
Yep. So, I mean I can tell you all about the, the budget dates and deadlines but one of the things that we gotta do as a profession, as an industry, and I’m talking here not as a librarian personally, but as a member of the board of trustees for my local library, we don’t understand how regular order works when it comes to moving a budget through the process and for Miami Dade County library advocates to succeed this year, they need to focus on the regular order. Meaning that the budget committee takes up the issue, there are several hearings, between those hearings there’s time for public comment, after public comment happens there’s a point where they set a budget ceiling, that’s happening in July, there’s more public hearings, there’s backroom discussions too, and those backroom discussions get supported by the grassroots at the public hearings, then you get the budget set on the, I think it’s the 18th of September. The 18th of September is a huge fundraising day in Miami Dade County for the library, it’s coming from taxes, so we’ve got to plan to work in regular order with the county commission there, with the city council on other places, with the town council, with the board of selectman, however it works in regular order, we’ve got to learn how to do that much more effectively.
So, let me, if I, if you, if I may take it to a larger question which is, and I’ll try and put this as succinctly as possible, why is it exactly that you’re trying to bring the evil of politics into libraries?
You know, that’s a, that’s, that’s a lovely way to put it because there is something that people, well, I mean, do you want the West Wing politics? Or do you want the House of Cards, Game of Thrones kind of politics? I mean.
You haven’t killed any dogs recently have you? No.
No, no, I mean, there’s a big difference between the Machiavellian and the regular order. Regular order for a political body, whether some governing board, some group of commissioners, elected officials in a, in a town council, regular order smooths through the voice of the minority, smooths through the will of the majority, smooths through community priorities about how we want to spend money, who we want to be in terms of our taxes, so from the West Wing perspective on politics David, I think it’s, it’s, that, I want to bring that. That and I could also do a big walk and talk through conference halls, it’s great fun, but if we’re looking at politics from the Game of Thrones or House of Cards perspective, no. I mean, you know, how, how cut-throat do we need to be with an institution that supports all ages and stages and individual as well as community outcomes, I mean, we’re not looking to burn the house down.
Well, just so, I have to say I was looking forward to this conversation because I’ve had very long and I’ll use the word “conversations” though they tend, that’s a very polite term for what they turn into, about the role of librarians being advocates and in the past both of us have used terms like militant, both of us have used terms like radical, and the question, the push back I get and what’s lovely is in this role I can just push it right back onto you. Is here we are, we’re librarians, we’re here by this sort of fiat of the community, we are mostly civil servants, if we’re in a public library setting we are meant to be, I will, I refuse to use the word neutral or unbiased because I don’t believe it’s there, but we’re at least meant to be above and beyond the partisan, non-partisan might be a better way of putting that, and so taking that and then asking that same sort of group of folks to activate in a political stance, I mean how do you, how do you put those two things together?
I guess, I’ve got an analogy here that if it doesn’t work tell me. I can either, well I own, I have a, I have a house, I have a meeting room, I have a space and people are coming to that house or space, I can either be the butler in that place, and serve them, and there’s nothing wrong with service, don’t get me wrong. But, I could be the butler, here’s some coffee, keep decaf, the room is either too hot or too cold, the lights are on, I will see you at the end of it to say I hope it went well, thank you, and walk away. Or, I can be the convener. To convene is to be a participant in the conversation, perhaps first among equals, perhaps in a servile perspective, but that looks to facilitate, encourage, engage and bring other people in, I can convene as opposed to simply open the doors and set up some coffee, do you drink decaf? I can convene and if that turns out to be political then, you know, well I don’t think it is. I think it’s engaged. I mean you say about the, and I have a slide that I love to put up in every single training we do, it’s the library equals community plus librarians. If we can convene the community and if that is interpreted as political then maybe we have a generational waiting period before that gets viewed differently than political, but if we can convene the community, that’s what we’re looking to do.
So, once again, just playing devil’s advocate if I may for a moment, what is it about, and you can answer this in terms of a general thing, but also EveryLibrary, what is going to prevent the notion of this becoming a sort of save the, jobs saving program, where maybe libraries who want to go through some major changes, whether changing personnel, they’re changing staff, do we always sit on the end of the, you know, we must save every librarian’s job out there? That’s our true mission?
What we do, and I said this earlier about how we train and coach, is that we tie things to strategic plan, and whether the management plan, or the library, the building plan if we’re going to go for a bond. The strategic plan for the library needs to be funded on either election day or the day that the budget is enacted in city council county government, or the day you publish your ordinance if you’re a border commissioner board of trustees. The strategic plan for the library needs to be responsive to community need, it needs to be built in consultation with the community, it needs to be responsive to changing issues in the profession. I’m looking for a healthy outcome that’s multigenerational, that has funding behind it. And it develops the changes that are inherent in a growing and changing dynamical fashion at an institution that’s always been growing, changing dynamic. Yeah, let’s keep it funded man, that’s where I’m, that’s where I’m at. If we’re going to be dependent on skills that are out of date to continue to service the community, we might be in trouble as a profession. We might be in trouble as an institution, the same way if we’re dependent on technologies or modes of, of interaction with media that are out of date, if we’re staying moribund, then I, I don’t want to save it man.
Well, so, so let me put those two together because it’s really easy to come out with a nice list of criterion, of we’re supporting, you know, with strategic plan, it’s enacted, it’s community-based, but when you begin to get into that wiggle worm, like the idea of is this strategic plan truly community based. Is that a, is that a judgment that you guys make?
I’d like to, yeah, I mean the, you, it’s a little bit like pornography, you know it when you see it, you know. Columbo, you’re, you and I are old enough to remember Columbo okay. Columbo kept coming back with one more question, you know, you come back to the campaigns that you worked on with one more question. Tell me about how big of a survey you had. Tell me about how you went out and collected it. Tell me about how many people came back and, is this a, is this a truly consultative, is this a truly additive process? You can find out real quick if it’s just being done by, by fiat.
So, the idea is that not only are you training librarians, training the folks with the boards, the library staff in how to put, move the politics of this along and I mean politics, I mean some people use the word politic as a dirty word, I just did previously, but it really is the allocation of power through funding, through decision making, through charters, through all these kinds of things so it’s a necessary act. So not only are you training them to speak politic, but in truth you’re training them on how to do library aren’t you?
Yeah, that’s an interesting observation. The, the, how to do library is necessary in a change, yeah, cause we’re in a massively changing period right now, for both profession and for the institution. Every single referendum that we work on, whether it’s a tax or a bond is essentially a referendum about whether the library should exist for the next X number of years. It’s a renewal, it’s a ten-year renewal of parcel tax. Should the library exist for another 10 years? For us to root our trainings about librarians talking to the public about their ongoing relevance as professionals, meaning that we might to have to coach them a little bit and we might have to teach them a little bit about how to talk about being librarians. We’re not in it long-term enough with any particular campaign to teach them how to be better librarians and I would not assume to personally get folks like you who can do that. I stand on the shoulders of the a lot of giants when it comes to thinking about the future of the profession. I’d like to see it funded for another 10 years, or 20 years, or in perpetuity we can get the ballot lineage written properly.
So, then I ask a set of questions because of my role here, so I’m a library professor and I prepare librarians and the classic questions belong in the curriculum, what you teach etc. There’s this discussion, for example, around coding, that every librarian should be able to code, whether it’s HTML or PHP or Python, what have you. And then you get push back going well does every librarian etc. Does every librarian need to have this long view, this political acumen, maybe not to the level of a consultants, but to at least understand, as you said, look there’s regular order and this is how regular order works. Is that a core competency?
I, I believe so. I mean, you mentioned before how everybody’s a public employee or most of them are civil servants. Those of you who are unionized, out there understand that small politics plays a significant role in how unions express the will of the membership. Yeah, it has to be part of the training, it has to be part of the formation of the profession because if you’re sitting in a department head meeting, it’s librarian in a town of 10,000 people and you’re sitting next to public works, police and fire, parks and rec, the public employees who work behind the desks paying bills, or taking money, or. The person sitting there chairing the meeting, unless you’re in a really unusual situation, is a politician and that chair of the meeting being a politician is not a negative. It’s how this place runs. You got to look at public works, police and fire, parks and rec as being a partner organization that is co-equal, is in the ecosystem and sometimes you gotta, you gotta play a little politics because it’s a small town, or it’s a big city, or it’s a sprawling, whatever. Yeah, you’re in a political environment whether you want to be or not. We’ve written laws over the years. Library law in Illinois has done its best to segregate the library from the rest of the political or to insulate the, or both from the rest of the political process and yeah, the library being something that serves all people with equanimity. Yeah, it should be apolitical when it comes to appointments, it should be apolitical when it comes to decisions about funding. But, it’s in a political milieu because it’s about taxes. It’s about power.
And I’m wondering how, by the, this world is full of false economies right, or false choices, which is, you know, it’s often presented as here comes the tax issue, which would you rather have? Fire fighters, teachers, or librarians?
Yeah, and I’m wondering how you, I mean part of this is messaging, but part of behind that messaging has to be some sort of coherent logic that says this is how we’re going to value this things, correct?
Yeah. You know, the beautiful thing about library messaging when it comes to a campaign, whether it’s about election day or about city council passing the budget, is that the library in its past, in my opinion, is a gap-filler. In its past and most noble it says that the library says we’ve identified a problem in our community, we’re going to stand in that gap. The day-to-day that we do, we do with elegance, but when we start dancing backwards in high heels is when we fill in a gap. It might be about early childhood education, or it might be about jobs creation, it might be about economic development. It might be about personal identity, it might be about personal discovery, but those gap places. There’s no false dichotomy in being the group, the individuals, the institution that helps everybody. If you want to talk police, we can talk about public safety outcomes for libraries real easy. We’ve got a gap at 3 o’clock, from 3 o’clock in the afternoon until 7 o’clock in the evening. Let’s talk about how that’s a public safety issue for kids, for K12, you know? Those false dichotomies come because we haven’t spoken with verve, alacrity about our gap-filling over the years.
Yeah, but I have to be careful when you talk about gap filling, the two issues that that raises for me, three. One is it puts the community, you focus on the deficits of the community, not on the positives. And I understand what you’re saying, but, you know, the idea is your community can’t read versus we get a, we can make a community that can read and economic benefits. The other is that, you know, when you’re playing the social safety net issue, one, that’s where you get quickly is this a library or a community center? I’m thinking about when Philadelphia was going to close a large number of their branches several years ago. The community stood up and said no, you won’t do it, which sounds like a great story until you realize what the community was doing was standing up and saying no, we need after-school daycare. We need a community center and I don’t care if there’s a librarian in it, I don’t care what’s in it as long as it’s lockable and the gangs don’t get there. You know, and so you get, I’m wondering how you, you’d look at that messaging. I mean the social safety net issue can be a double-edged sword, can’t it?
Well, I think that you’re right. Who’s going to speak true the power on day one, you know, the folks who are, who are serving the deficits, who have to stand up and say we’re a library, we’re not a drop-in center for teens at risk. But, part of what we’re doing as a library is also to be able to serve those, those kids who are at risk after there is some remediation of this gap, you know, we’ve got to be the ones who speak to the power about that. You know, for every, I mean I love the idea of, of doing summer, summer lunches for kids who are at risk and having them in a space that has librarians who can help them with summer reading, in a space that is, you know, not on the street. I love that and it’s also tragic as hell that that has to exist at the library, that there’s not another social safety net in our community. I would rather not not see us walk away out of the purity of concept for what the institution “should be”, I’d rather see us identify the gaps and talk about getting ourselves out of that job.
Right, it’s so, we are campaigning to get out of the job, I like that.
Well I think that we fundamentally, I built an organization here with EveryLibrary and my colleagues on the board who have set up to do this with me, the, we don’t want to exist at a certain point. You know, this vocabulary about talking about politics need to be baked into the training and the, the MLS program, the MLS programs out there. The fact that there’s budget crises where people look at and say the library isn’t going to be relevant the next 10 years, either the voters say no or that member of city council, that group of civic leaders say no, I’d like to work ourselves out of a job, I really would. That’s idealistic cause there’s always going to be a political issue and we’re always going to be going out for voters in this Jeffersonian democracy, but I’d like to work ourselves out of a job. So, maybe, you know, maybe I’m naive about it, but I’ve seen it happen in some other communities where, yeah, the literacy center gets built in the library and then there’s a, an understanding that it, yeah, it should exist in the library but it should be a capacity build to other literacy work that’s happening. Yeah, I’d rather see us identify the gaps, embrace the ones that are part of our core competency and then work ourselves out of a job and others.
So, how do we prepare, you know, you talked about preparing students for it. I was sitting down with the, with the state library recently and they were saying how, you know, we have X hundred libraries and some of them are districts and some of them are tax bases and them of them are free association and some are this and some are that and, you know, sort of you can tell as they were going through this discussion that the notion of preparing to work in an environment, there are hundreds of environments where, you know, different funding models and such. Is there a common core? It’s a loaded term. Is there a common understanding of sort of when you hit the ground as a new librarian you should be begin to investigate X?
I would, I would hope that there would be a common core of financial literacy, a common core of facilities literacy, and a common core of political literacy. The stories that I’ve heard and the stories I’ve seen as a, you know, I’ve been Chair of the board at the Berwyn Public Library for about six years now. Our crises moments have not been political in the last six years, they’ve been about our facility and they’ve been about our, essentially like how to, how the heck does the city do our accounting? You know, like we’re trying to figure out how, make sure that I IMRF is paid, you know, so the facilities literacy, the financial, I’m sorry, the facilities literacy, the financial literacy and the political literacy, I’m not a librarian, I haven’t gone through library school, I don’t know anything other than what I’ve seen from the outside, but those three areas seem to, to be in need of pretty significant overhaul.
What do you?
Go ahead, sorry.
What do you think?
Oh, I, you know it’s really interesting ‘cause when you talk about it, there used to be the notion of a regional library program, back in the, in the good old days almost 30 years ago, I mean so, back in the day. You know, when you wanted to be a Louisiana librarian you would go to the Louisiana library school and you’d learn about Louisiana libraries, including policy and how the government works and parishes and etc. And now what we are seeing with the expansion of online, online education, the opportunity to move around, is really there are very few, if any, programs that can survive as regional programs. And so the notion is that it moves the curriculum to be much more general and it occurs to me that one place that general doesn’t work too well is in understanding the politics of the situation. We can talk policy, but it tends to be things like copyright, it tends to be things like public disclosure laws, it tends, you know, creating policy, not local policy or how millage works etc.
Right, right. I mean, some of that political literacy is about how to, you know, behave, how to negotiate how to position oneself and one’s institutional needs, but yeah, some of it’s just like civics 101 stuff, I mean, the, the… I feel for every librarian who is in a higher Ed situation, that’s talking about how the kids who are coming into college now have certain deficits about their ability to speak and write and research, you know, and that’s because they haven’t been trained in K12. Our librarians who are coming out, unless they’ve had a real fixation on social studies, are in a similar perspective when it comes to being civicly illiterate and I would like to see that change.
One of the things, the trends that we are seeing here at Syracuse and I’ve talked to other colleagues about the programs, we’re seeing that, for example, the average age of incoming students has gone from the mid 40s to the mid 30s to now the mid 20s. We’re getting an increasing number of students coming right from their undergraduate degree. And what that means is that often we relied on the experience of someone going into their second career and we’re finding that now, no this is their first career and so we have to teach them things like professionalism, communications, these kinds of things. So it’s, it’s an interesting problem and I think that maybe we haven’t paid enough attention to the civics lesson, as you said.
Yeah. I think that’s worth introspection on the part of the academy.
Absolutely, and this is Ken Haycock’s line, it always echoes back in my, in the back of my head whenever you talk about that, which is the academy is accredited by the profession in librarianship and so it’s, it’s a both, it’s a two-handed approach, we have to be hand-in-hand on that.
I’m jealous, real quick, I’m jealous that you got to name check Ken Haycock before I did.
Oh man, very cool, how else can we get in? [laughs] One last area question and then I’ll let you go, thank you for your time. But, you know you mentioned librarians in higher education and you talked about the literacy initiative, but I think there are many a librarian in higher education right now that are, you know, listening to this and going yeah millages, yeah taxes, public libraries, you want to really wrestle with finances you go up before a faculty senate. You know, you wrestle with a chancellor who doesn’t get it, you wrestle with an engineering faculty member who gets everything online that we pay for, but doesn’t realize it. Is there, is there a thought either within EveryLibrary, or within that there’s a need for some other mechanism to sort of look within the academic world?
Well, I mean, we are focused on, on public funding measures and that is either before the voters or before some governing body, like a civic council. Yeah, I mean, that’s a different idiom, but it’s also regular order. There is a regular budget process in their institution that if you don’t understand how it works, that’s on you. The regular, the regular budgeting process you work in a big, non-profit organization or association or foundation environment, that’s on you if you don’t know how that works, you’ve got to understand how it works. The, what can Every Library do about that? Perhaps inspire conversations like this on the part of people who are in, in the academy. We’re not necessarily baked into academic librarianship the same way we’re hopefully becoming more baked into public libraries, but you got to understand how things work. There is a process. The process protects minority issues, a minority of rights in a voting environment, but also protects the small. But, it also moves the, the strong forward and the big forward. If you don’t understand how that works in your institution, find a mentor, or, you know, start watching, you know, West Wing.
[laughs] John Chrastka of EveryLibrary, I want to thank you for your time today. Can you quick, give us a little bit of where people can follow up if they’re interested in either the Rapid Response Fund, EveryLibrary or just following up with you?
Absolutely. So we are all trying to be pervasive in the social media context with the words EveryLibrary. EveryLibrary.org, our blog is pretty current, EveryLibrary on Facebook, @EveryLibrary on Twitter. We’ve got a Pinterest, EveryLibrary on Tumblr. We try and do is listen as much as power. We want to listen for where the problems are David. When it comes to, you know, budget issues hitting city councils, trying to address that with the Rapid Response Fund. We’re trying to listen to the public when they’re talking about, you know, whether or not we want to approve this library funding measure for the next 10 years or so. We also want to hear from, from librarians and staff at all levels, trustees and friends of foundations about how the money that we’re raising can be put to good work helping move both those election days and those budget days forward as well as the conversation. So, Everylibrary.org and thank you very much for, for your time and line of questions today. I think it was a great chat, man.
Thank you and thank you listeners and thank the listeners and good news, next time Steve should be back and you won’t be forced to deal with me and, you know, if the space aliens are listening – be kind! [laughs] Thanks again, have a great day.
Hey it’s Steve, thanks to David and John for the great conversation. Both these guys have been guests on the show previously. I will include links to their shows in the show notes and thanks also to my alien captors for setting me free.
All right. Steve, we’re starting from here again and I’m keeping in the alien abduction joke.