There’s nothing quite like watching a community of informed patrons proudly express their patriotism by fulfilling their civic duty and voting. Election season is upon us and if the early polling has been any indication, it’s sure to be one of the most talked-about election cycles yet.
If your library is lucky enough to be a polling place this season, there’s a few things you should know in order to make the experience run as smoothly as possible for your patrons and outside guests. Whether you’re a California library gearing up for next month or just looking to get ahead on November’s festivities, here are a few ways you can prepare your library for elections (and even get some new patrons while you’re at it).
Get the word out.
Your most valuable patrons shouldn’t need to look further than their local circulation desk to know exactly when, where and how they can cast their vote this year. In the weeks leading up to voting, make sure your patrons and community members are aware of voting procedures before the big day. Questions like, “will parking be available?” and “what should I do if I just want to read in peace that day?” will be crucial to keeping your guest informed and happy.
Getting the word out on proper identification and paperwork voters need should also be a priority for a successful voting day. Identification laws differ state to state and the last thing your patrons need is to wait in a line only to be denied their ability to cast a ballot. Provide your patrons with a one-sheeter on things to expect the day of, from voting logistics to library expectations themselves.
Preparing your library (and your sanity).
Okay, okay while keeping patrons in the know is one of your top priorities as a librarian, you may be humming to a different tune when hundreds of new faces swarm your organized stacks of books, computers and Mango Languages pamphlets. Instead of hoping for the best (and using your most voluptuous encyclopedia as a shield), put together a game plan and traffic pattern for your polling place to keep things as neat and tidy as possible. Start making signs now, so that everyone knows where to go to cast their ballot and where they can pick up a copy of the campaign classic Primary Colors.
Likely, your library will be hosting volunteers and polling administrators for the election who may not be familiar with your layout. Fortunately, even the highest officiants of the election are really just new patrons in disguise. If you want to really impress, hand out some information on your library (and maybe a cookie or two) to keep them coming back for more.
Keep your patrons informed.
Keeping your patrons informed isn’t just for election day. While your library may have a large collection of political novels like Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, staying up to date on politics isn’t always easy - especially for younger patrons.
Try providing your patrons with a few nonpartisan facts on each candidates in the months leading up to the election. Not only can these helpful tidbits be invaluable to the less experienced voter, but providing more general information on party views may help new voters think critically about their own personal political leanings and make them a more informed citizen.
This election day, make sure your library is keeping the party in electoral party. For even more on Why We (Will Always) Need Public Libraries, take a look at our white paper.