The pandemic has challenged the way libraries connect and engage with their local communities. Here are some of the exciting findings shared by presenters as part of the OPLA Community-Led Think Tank's Community Conversation and what they might mean for the future of community librarianship.
In previous years, our little public library has served as an information center for municipal, provincial and federal elections. For this year’s federal election, we ordered welcome resources from Elections Canada. Since October 1st, we’ve had a Voting Information Station consisting of these resources.
The information booklets and pamphlets we requested are no different than the ones that can be found on the Elections Canada website. However, when you order the materials you can request them in accessible formats: large print, Braille and audio. The topics we cover at the Voting Information Station include: how citizens can get ready to vote, what types of IDs are valid at the polling station and who the candidates are in our area. The resources from Elections Canada fully cover the first two concerns and a poster made in-house and the installation of a computer (with the browser open to the Elections Canada website) help answer the candidate question and any other questions that fall outside of these topics. Plus, our team is always ready to provide a helping hand.
The station has already been visited multiple times by patrons who heard about it through our advertising and patrons who happen upon the station while visiting the library. Our main goal was to make sure patrons are fully informed to increase the chances of more people voting in our community and also, to inject a little excitement into the whole voting process via our reference interviews. It is easy to become, and stay, jaded about voting and elections. Sadly, election time is synonymous with adults proliferating vitriol like schoolyard bullies. We look for opportunities in our interactions with our library members at the station to encourage or provide a hopeful message, such as mentioning the importance of each citizen’s voice being heard.
A station like ours is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many things that libraries can do to support voter engagement. I’ve found the Libraries Vote Toolkit, produced by a partnership between OLA, FOPL, OLS – N and SOLS, to be especially useful. Although the toolkit was created for the 2018 municipal elections for all types of libraries to use, it is almost entirely relevant for any election. The site consists of guidelines, templates and statistics, all of which aid in simplifying election time for libraries. We hope to utilize the Supporting Civic Engagement At Your Library document as a guideline for future elections as we would like to host an all-candidates meet and greet.
How is your library gearing up for the federal election?
Nikolina Likarevic is the Interim CEO of Bonnechere Union Public Library. She is a graduate of the Master of Information program from the University of Toronto and holds a MA in modern literature. She is the deputy editor of Open Shelf and the associate editor of Sewer Lid, a magazine of urban art and literature.