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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Librarians: Help Voters, Please!!

One of the many interesting things I like to check when I have a chance is the result list from the little polls that Library Journal has in its LJXpress email alerts.

The results of a recent poll (open from 8/19 thro 8/26) really bothered me. The question was:

"With the national presidential conventions coming right up, what are you doing to prepare your patrons?"

The multiple-choice answers were:
* Creating unique informational resources on the web
* Highlighting materials in the collection
* Holding community forums
* Two of the above
* None of the above
* All of the above

The results surprised and frustrated me:

68.42% None of the above
15.79% Two of the above
10.53% Highlighting materials in the collection
5.26% Holding community forums
0% Creating unique informational resources on the web
0% All of the above

Granted, this is not a scientific poll, and the results page does not even say how many responses there were. But still--HELLO!!?! Libraries are supposed to be sources for quality, reliable information. That even some of them are not helping people get trustworthy info on the important presidential election is unfathomable to me.

Yes, yes, I know: politics--oooh, scary! We dare not take a position! Well, you don't have to. The least you can do is also one of the safest things you can do. Just post a link to, which is "a nonpartisan, nonprofit, 'consumer advocate' for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding."

Nobody could convince me that sharing this site with the public is not a good thing. There's so much spin out there that I'm getting dizzy. So c'mon, people, help out the voters by publicizing this fair and amazing website. Put a link on your homepage and on the screens of all your public-access computers. Keep on proving how valuable you are!


cwood said...

I asked a WDFPL reference librarian for her opinion on your post. She is a seasoned librarian who in many cases serves as my original search engine or “primary resource.”

Our early discussion hinged on the lack of real estate on the library’s homepage. Why The Wire, isn’t is more comprehensive? How authoritative is Jon Stewart? How about the I Love My Librarian Award link? Why not put each online database link on the homepage? Traffic might increase. Carving out space without caving in to the clutter is a big usability issue at WDFPL.

In house discussion of your M Word post inspired the distribution of 2008 Voter bookmarks displaying various nonpartisan political links on the web, including My favorite reference librarian prefers the League of Women Voter’s site as her primary information source. Check out NovelIdeas Blog for other voter initiatives implemented at WDFPL.

~Kathy Dempsey said...

Hi Carolyn,

I'm glad my post inspired discussion and action at your library! And kudos for passing out voting info.

In the past few days I also read a good listserv post from my buddy Marsha Iverson in Washington state. She contributed:

"We formed a collaboration with the League of Women Voters, the Municipal League, and King County Elections to promote our new infoVote pages--a
central source for all things election, from the history of the Electoral College to candidates' Web sites:

To promote the pages, we produced posters and post card handouts, distributed in the libraries and through our community partners.

In the first four weeks, we had more than 6,000 visits. Traffic has dropped a tad, but we're about to add a link in our News section through
November 4."

Quick FYI on other comments: I added art from The Wire b/c at the time I couldn't snag a good shot of the plain logo. And re: space on the homepage--always a premium, yes. Best advice I've seen to keep the homepage uncluttered is to make the links go to general pages; ie, one link goes to "see all our databases" while another goes to "get voting information" or whatever. Still... libraries have too much great stuff, always!

Nancy Dowd said...

Hats off to you Carolyn on many levels. First off, taking an idea from a blog and posing it to your staff members. Wow!

Bringing back the information to the readers of this blog, great!

Being inspired and acting on the inspiration- whew, that's perfect!

And posting the full story on your blog (which BTW is really good- folks should be reading it for sure!). That's the icing on the cake.

Nicely done :-) -Nancy

Sundancer said...

I just wanted to say what nancy said but she said(wrote) it better...:D
So keep up the good work!!

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cwood said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence. Are you cringing, thinking "how can she say that?" The thought of a librarian uttering the phrase in person makes me laugh. I hope you are smiling too.

It is good to know that you have friends in high places, Kathy. I wish WDFPL had a web development team and a foundation president from Microsoft. Maintaining the library's web presence reflects only a small portion of my WDFPL duties.

West Deptford Free Public Library staff had fun developing a collection of voting resources now located on WDFPL homepage as Vote 2008!

There is tweaking to do and staff is still searching for the perfect vote 2008 graphic.

Time management must be considered as the link will display for less than 30 days.