Libraries and Voter Registration

Public libraries serve an important role in presenting information resources and programs centered around civic literacy. From voter registration events to programs related to voting, libraries are a large part of the civic education process.

How does your library plan to engage patrons in the upcoming election?

At the Watkins Glen (N.Y.) Public Library, library director Kelly Povero is working to help broaden civic literacy in her community through initiatives such as Civic Season, the flagship program from Made By Us, a network of hundreds of museums, historic sites, libraries and archives unleashing access to history for younger generations who have the most at stake.

Povero learned about Civic Season during a recent workshop attended by representatives from other libraries, non-profit organizations and educational institutions. 

“I think at the bare minimum, it’s our responsibility to provide both sides of information on different topics," she says. Povero worries that “misinformation will probably increase as we get closer to the 2024 national election,” and she feels that libraries are responsible for "providing correct resources” to help individuals make voting decisions.

Programs for civic engagement

Povero is working on collaborating with two nearby libraries and the county historical society to facilitate programming centered around civic engagement. The timeliness of this type of programming is relevant with the 2024 Presidential election and the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 2026. 

Some program ideas for civic engagement include:

  • Panel discussions with local elected officials
  • Outreach to local high schools to teach the importance of voting and voter registration
  • Documentary/film screenings
  • Sample citizenship test questions to leave out as a passive activity or Mock Citizenship Naturalization Interviews
  • Connect with local organizations to plan a volunteer fair
  • Civic Season also has additional events and programs that can help spark ideas

Voter registration opportunities at the library

Many libraries will hold voter registration events to help get community members informed and registered to vote. EveryLibrary has launched the Libraries2024 Initiative to promote issue advocacy and civic education about school libraries, public libraries and the profession of librarianship in advance of Election Days throughout the 2024 cycle. This initiative aims to channel support and awareness for library ballot issues.

Another organization promoting voter registration activities for libraries is National Voter Registration Day, which will fall on September 17, 2024. This organization invites organizations to sign up to be partners, and in return will send out free stickers and posters, customized resources and assistance in planning their celebration.

Additional Programming Librarian resources on voter registration and civic engagement include:

This article was written by a member of ALA's Public and Cultural Programs Advisory Committee.