Library ballot measures draw strong support

Contact: Larra Clark


For Immediate Release

November 26, 2003

Library ballot measures draw strong support and some disappointments in 2003

Despite dreary fiscal times for state governments, voters in many districts came out November 4 in favor of tax measures to support their local libraries. Aided by numerous volunteers and Friends who got the message out through leaflets, Web sites and telephone canvassing, public and school libraries did well with funding new buildings, renovations and services.

American Libraries, the magazine of the American Library Association (ALA), will publish a roundup of election results in its January 2004 issue. Results are available now online at

“Everyone – young and old, rich and poor – benefits when communities invest in libraries,” said ALA President Carla Hayden. “Libraries are part of the American dream.
Because libraries and library workers offer free access to all, they bring opportunity to all.”

Voters in San Antonio said yes to a $3.9-million bond issue for improvements to eight branch libraries and a joint public–high school library, while Windsor, Conn., residents approved by more than two-to-one a $6.05 million expansion and renovation of the city’s public library.

Kalona, Iowa, overwhelmingly passed a $1.4-million bond issue for a new library with 81 percent of voters in favor. The new library will be four or five times the size of the existing building, which was built in 1914.

Royal Oak, Mich., voters passed by 58 percent a 20-year, 1-mill levy that will generate $1.75 million annually for library operations and improvements. The new tax means the library will no longer depend on the cash-strapped city, which had intended to lay off 25 part-time library workers January 1 as part of a plan to offset a deficit of $4 million.

Carthage, Mo., residents resoundingly approved 589-to-286 a sales tax increase to help fund a $4.5-million expansion of the public library. The 20-year tax will fund a 13,480-square-foot addition and renovation of the 1905 Carnegie library, but supporters first need to raise $2 million in private contributions over the next 12 months.

Other states that voted to support new library funding included:
Texas, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina and Wyoming.

But other significant bond issues did not fare well, forcing libraries to make hard choices just to stay above water.

Akron–Summit County (Ohio) Public Library officials were taken by surprise when voters rejected a 1.4-mill tax levy that would have supported library operations for the next six years. Trustees were quickly forced to decide how to handle a funding shortfall of $5.1 million, or 20 percent of the library’s entire budget, for 2004 and possibly beyond.

Mesa County, Colo., library supporters were chagrined when two referenda failed by narrow margins. Referendum 5A, which lost by only 46 votes, would have provided an extra $500,000 for operating and staffing costs, while 5B, which came up about 1,000 votes short, would have purchased bonds for a new $15.7-million central library building in Grand Junction.

American Libraries is a perquisite of personal membership in the ALA. It circulates to about 64,000 ALA members and more than 3,000 institutional subscribers. Institutional subscriptions are available for $60 a year, single issues for $6. Fax orders to 312-280-5103.