It’s Election Day in America. Libraries and those who work in them have always played a leading role in American democracy. From librarians helping first-time voters register, to resources (both virtual and physical) serving as fact-checker for some of the most controversial issues of the day, and even (in some places) the building itself serving as a polling place, elections highlight the crucial role that libraries play in a democratic society.
Indeed, elections also call on information scientists (and those who seek to enter the profession) to remember the vital role they play. The ALA has put together a resource that highlights ways that libraries can be active participants during elections. Peruse these valuable resource and consider the following things:
Direct from the ALA, this is a key invective to consider on Election Day 2020. Not to belabor the point, but libraries are key institutions in democratic societies. They are treasure troves of information that can influence, and perhaps, sway elections. This is also a call, I believe, to consider the nature of neutrality in libraries. Libraries, especially in America today, can not afford to be neutral actors in their communities. And while librarians shouldn’t tell patrons how to vote, patrons should understand where a library stands through the enactment of progressive, inclusive policies that reflect the best of the profession.
Sometimes, libraries are on the ballot, too.
While today is a national election, local elections happen frequently and the issues there can often have a direct impact on your local library. Given this, it behooves any library lover to really dig into and understand local politics. Whether it’s a bond issue that affects money your library may (or may not) receive or a politician’s viewpoint on the role of libraries and whether they should be supported (or not), important decisions about libraries are being made at the local level and require your input as much as any national election.
Be ready for anything post-election.
This can be a fine line to walk. Any election will produce winners and losers, and it’s important to understand how people will respond to that. They may find solace in the library and the librarians who work there. Their emotions may be anything from anger to elation. Helping these patrons in a fraught post-election atmosphere is a key “soft” skill that most aren’t taught in library school, but taking cues from other helping professions – like counselors – can be beneficial.
Finally, if you are in the USA and reading this today and haven’t done so yet (and you can), GO VOTE!
Nick Dean is a second-year master’s student in the School of Library and Information Management (SLIM) at Emporia State University. Nick currently works full-time as an academic advisor at a medical school and as a part-time employee at a medical library, both in the Kansas City metro.