Newsmaker: John Chrastka
John Chrastka, ALA's director of membership development from 2003 to 2011, didn't leave library advocacy behind when he resigned from ALA to devote more time to his start-up consulting agency. First, he was already on the board of the Berwyn (Ill.) Public Library (where he has served for six years). And now, in characteristically maverick fashion, Chrastka has launched a national library political action committee (PAC), EveryLibrary.org, to help public, school, and academic libraries get ballot initiatives passed in 2013 and beyond. Chrastka discussed his vision with AL Senior Editor Beverly Goldberg on October 5.
AMERICAN LIBRARIES: Why did you take on such an ambitious endeavor as forming a national library PAC? JOHN CHRASTKA: There is a gap in library advocacy that can only be addressed by a PAC. The gap happens because of IRS regulations about political speech by 501(c)(3) groups and associations such as ALA, the Urban Libraries Council, OCLC, and the Gates Foundation. State libraries--and the local library itself--cannot use tax money to fund a get-out-the-vote campaign. Under current law and regulation, the library community needs a national PAC to support a local library when it is on the ballot. From my years as a library trustee, as a former ALA staffer who knows the advocacy ecosystem personally, and as a political junkie, I am in a good position to make it happen.
How many library campaigns do you expect EveryUbrary will be able to support in its first year? Every single one that is on the 2013 ballot through the new, free, and fully customizable campaign tools we will create for library campaigns. We plan on print, email, and surface-mail templates, phone and door-to-door canvassing scripts, web-quality video and audio files, and high-resolution art for yard signs and billboards. We also plan to rally volunteers to help staff phone banks for certain campaigns. As we build funding, we'll add voter segmentation and analytics.
Has anything like this been attempted before? When I started planning EveryLibrary. I commissioned a white paper covering the last 10 years of library PACs to make sure 1 wasn't encroaching on any existing national projects. …