Referenda Roundup: Good News for Libraries

By Eberhart, George M. | American Libraries, December 1998 | Go to article overview

Referenda Roundup: Good News for Libraries


Eberhart, George M., American Libraries


Voters in Seattle overwhelmingly approved a $196.4-million bond measure on November 3 to upgrade the city's 107-year-old library system with new facilities, technology, and books, after months of opposition from a group favoring a public loan rather than a tax increase (AL, Oct., p. 21-22). Public Information Officer Andra Addison said library staff were "doing handsprings" over the measure, which won a solid 72% of the vote.

City Librarian Deborah Jacobs told the Seattle Times November 4 that the proposition passed because residents had a major role in putting it together. "We talked to people and we listened to them and then we changed the plan according to what they said," Jacobs explained. "It wasn't just cute that we called it 'Neighbors for Libraries.' It was people out there working for it."

In addition to replacing Seattle's downtown library with a larger one, the bond will nearly double the total square footage of the branches by adding three new ones, relocating two others, and replacing seven.

Meanwhile, library bond issues elsewhere also fared well, with only a few exceptions. American Libraries' state-by-state roundup of library referenda and other local ballot measures is based on reports from state library agencies and other sources.

California. Proposition DD, a $178.3-million bond measure to fund the renovation, expansion, or replacement of 28 deteriorating Los Angeles Public Library branches and build four new ones in communities without libraries, received a resounding 72% of the vote. The improved branches will be earthquake-safe, accessible to disabled users, and wired for technology.

Fresno County voters showed overwhelming support (nearly 70%) for Measure B, which will raise as much as $8.5 million annually for the county's 35-branch library system. The new money will triple the number of acquisitions, double library hours, and increase literacy services.

With "It's Overdue!" as a campaign slogan, voters in Santa Monica approved by 81% a $25-million library bond that will finance a building expansion for the main library and improvements for its three branches.

Opponents of San Diego's successful Proposition C to construct a new $411-million ballpark for the Padres failed to convince voters that the city's funding projections were flawed and could sink plans for a new downtown library in the future.

Colorado. Denver Public Library successfully passed a bond levy to build a new branch at Lowery Air Force Base to replace the current Montebello branch. Other library bond issues passed in Penrose, West Routt, Eagle County, and Burlington; millage increases failed in Weld and South Routt.

Connecticut. A $4.9-million bond issue for a new library passed by a two-to-one margin in Plainville. In West Hartford a charter-revision referendum was passed that allows the library board to recommend a salary range to the town council.

Florida. Union County Public Library won a mandate when 72% of voters approved another two-year special operating millage on October 1. The assessment will raise approximately $62,000 for library operations in this rural county. A similar referendum passed in Wilton Manors, near Fort Lauderdale.

Illinois. Republican Al Salvi lost his bid to become Illinois Secretary of State and ex-officio state librarian to Democrat Jesse White. Salvi supported the use of filtering software in public libraries and accused White of being "X-rated" on pornography because he opposes filters on First Amendment grounds.

Nineteen public library referenda questions in 15 voting districts were on the ballot statewide. Thirteen were successful, among them a new library district for New Berlin; increases in tax rate and debt limit for Ford Heights to rebuild its library system; a 20-cent property-tax increase narrowly passed by Cahokia Public Library District residents; and an $8.8-million proposal to demolish an old junior high school in Batavia and build a new library - however, voters turned down a proposed six-cent tax increase to operate the new facility. …

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Referenda Roundup: Good News for Libraries
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