|Maryland's Successful Campaign to Increase Library Funding
|Year of Publication
|Computers in Libraries
|16 - 19, 54
|This article explains how the Maryland public library community used data from a citizen poll to support increases in government funding. With a major grant from the Division of Library Development Services (the official name for the Maryland state library), the public library community hired a nationally known pollster, Potomac, Inc., to conduct a citizen poll, known as the Maryland Poll, to (1) survey Maryland residents on their perceived value of public libraries; (2) look specifically at the return on investment of government dollars in public libraries; and (3) provide information pertinent to the public officials who fund libraries. Potomac, Inc. conducted a significant telephone survey in September 2003, surveying 24 jurisdictions. One hundred interviews were conducted in the ten metro jurisdictions and 50 interviews in each of the 14 more rural counties. 44 percent stated that they or someone in their household visited a library within the last week; an additional 36 percent stated that they visited within the last couple of months, and a final 9 percent stated they visited sometime within the last year. When asked to rate their public library along with other public services by giving each a grade of A, B, C, D, or Fail, Marylanders gave public libraries the highest grade of A, numerically averaging 3.3 out of 4 statewide and ranked public libraries as the most desired community asset. When asked, "Are you more likely to think of your local public library as an essential service like a school or more of a cultural amenity like an art gallery," 76 percent stated that they thought of their public library as an essential service. Further, 81 percent felt that the library staff was knowledgeable, courteous, and efficient; 70 percent felt that their libraries had the information they needed. In assessing the impact that public libraries had on economic development in their respective communities, the poll found that 75 percent of library patrons used their trip to the library to include other errands; 43 percent stated that having a public library move into a community helps attracts business to the area; and 78 percent believed that public libraries improve a community by helping people learn new skills, thereby increasing their job prospect potentials. An overwhelming majority, 98 percent felt that public libraries help people learn new things regardless of age. Ninety-two percent polled felt that public libraries were a good investment for their tax dollars, and more than 60 percent stated that both local and state government should invest more money in libraries. Armed with these solid numbers from the Maryland Poll made it possible for the Maryland public library community to impress upon state legislators how much their constituents used and valued their public libraries. Waging a successful grassroots library funding campaign and winning bipartisan support led to raising tens of thousands of dollars in additional state funding. The poll provided a powerful weapon not only to protect funding, but also to increase it.