March 21st, 2015 Brian Herzog
I had to wait to post this one until the event had passed, because I didn't want to skew the results. And also as a caveat emptor right up front, this might be one of those "you had to be there" moments, because the set up is long so the punch line may be anti-climatic. But it's the second day of Spring and it's snowing again, so here we go anyway.
Every year since 1993, Chelmsford has had a town-wide Winterfest celebration during February. That's fun. A couple years ago, the organizers also started an ArtWalk - artists created work around the same theme, and these were displayed in business' front windows in the town center. This gave people another reason to be outside and walk around Town, and also drew people to the shops.
This year, an element of competition was added - people could cast votes for their favorite display.
I was asked to help figure out a way to allow online voting for the ArtWalk displays. SurveyMonkey seemed easiest, so the organizers took photos of the displays, I added them to a poll, and we promoted the URL around town so people could vote (this, by the way, is why I waited on this post - I wanted the voting closed so that spambots wouldn't link from here and ruin the poll).
Okay, so there's the set up. The displays were going up on Saturday, February 7th, and the voting would open on Sunday the 8th. And of course, we were promoting the ArtWalk beforehand, and I think some of the artists had been talking it up too.
So now the punchline (I wanted to warn you it was coming so you didn't miss it): on the Wednesday before, an older gentleman came up to me at the desk and said,
I'd like to cast my vote for the Winterfest artwork. I saw the one I liked. Do I do that here?
I was a little puzzled, and told him that no, voting doesn't start until Sunday, and the displays themselves don't go up until Saturday. To which he replied,
Oh, I don't know anything about it. My wife just told me to come down here and vote for hers.
Ha. See, that was totally worth it. As a reward, take a look at the 2015 Chelmsford Winterfest ArtWalk displays. The photos don't really do them justice, but it's a fun program anyway.
October 30th, 2012 Brian Herzog
I'm in Ohio this week* visiting family, and couldn't help but notice all the bright pink VOTE LIBRARY signs dotting the lawns in Huron, Ohio:
It got me curious, so I looked into what the library was asking for. Funding increases are certainly nothing new to the library world, but I thought the Huron Library has put together a good levy campaign. They've got info on their website as well as a dedicated website for the issue. Both have a nice embedded video explaining how the library will use the money to benefit the community - and my favorite part is that they break it down to the personal level:
The owner of a home with a market value of $100,000 currently pays $25 per year for library services. The 1.25 mills will cost that same homeowner approximately $39 per year - a total increase of $14 per year. For less than the cost of two hardcover books, or two DVDs, per year, quality library service to the community can be preserved. [emphasis added]
Because there are so many people right now who are against any tax increases at all ever no matter what ever ever, it's important to focus on the value of tax money - and do it in easily digestible language. For people in a community with a strong library, $14 is not much of an increase - and it's certainly easier to understand on a personal level than an increase of .45 mill.
Judging from the number of signs I saw around town, the Huron Library has a lot of community support for this levy - good luck, HPL!
*I had planned to just stay for an extended weekend, but Hurricane Sandy conveniently cut off any return route from Ohio to Massachusetts, so my five day stay became eight days of playing with nieces and nephews and helping my parents (besides, my library was without power for a couple days so they never missed me anyway). I hope everyone else affected by the storm fared well.
Tags: budget, funding, hpl, huron, increase, levy, libraries, Library, oh, ohio, public, sign, vote, voting
November 4th, 2008 Brian Herzog
For the third year in a row, my library is conducting a One Book program. The way we choose the book is to have a committee narrow down all suggestions to three finalists, and then let townspeople vote (today, election day) to decide the winner.
The voting is done by visiting the schools and passing out ballots, and also by setting up tables at some of the actual polling places around town. We do this not only to get the townspeople to vote, but also to raise awareness of the program and the library.
This year, we're also doing online voting. We created a "ballot" on our website (more on this below), and also set up a "voting booth" just inside the the library's front door. We evaluated five different options for free online polls, and in the end decided to use PollDaddy (it's also what Elizabeth Thomsen recommends).
[Note: for the purposes of this post, I'm linking to example polls, not our real polls - I don't want our totals being thrown off, after all]
Review of Online Poll Options
I want to point out that all of these polling websites provided the code to embed the poll right in our website (an example of making the library website more interactive and interesting by providing "information in context").
Each poll also had pros and cons, and here's a quick rundown of what we liked and didn't like. Keep in mind that these preferences are based on our needs for running a voting project - for a different kind of poll, we'd have different criteria.
- Pro: control over layout (can add book covers or catalog links); prevents repeat voting
- Con: results loads in different page (includes ads)
- Pro: most visually-appealing
- Con: requires flash plug-in; interface slightly confusing; can't change look; links to other peoples' polls; does not prevent repeat voting
- Pro: control over layout (can add book covers and catalog links); prevents repeat voting
- Con: results loads in different page (includes ads)
- Pro: most features and options
- Con: have to create an account; too powerful for this simple application
- Pro: randomizes order; results shown on same page; prevents repeat voting; can add book covers
- Con: can't change layout after selection style; have to create an account
One Book Online Voting
So based on these criteria, we went with PollDaddy. The only major omission after I got everything set up was that there was nowhere to include summaries of the books (unless it was part of the book cover image). Because of this, each ballot had to be two columns, one with summaries and one with the voting. Not perfect, but acceptable.
Something else I liked about PollDaddy were all the options it offered, and we had to use them differently in this case. Although our website ballot and library voting booth ballot essentially look the same, I had to create different polls to run each. The reason for this is that we don't allow multiple votes on the website ballot, but since we're using the same computer for the library voting booth (shown here), we did need to allow multiple voting.
Other settings we're using for these polls are to randomize the answers, set a closing date of midnight tonight, turn off comments (un-2.0, I know, but comments are not needed in this case), and to embed the book covers to make checking the right radio button easier. I really like that the results are displayed on the same page as the ballot, so the patron is always within our website, and isn't exposed to someone else's advertisements.
So far, the polls have been open for about four hours, and the voting is going well. The library voting booth is definitely attracting attention. Not only am I looking forward to finding out which book won, but also how many votes we get through the website.
Tags: chelmsford, free, libraries, Library, One Book, online, poll, polls, public, vote, voting
November 1st, 2008 Brian Herzog
This question is kind of predictable, but still very important:
Patron: Do you have a copy of Tuesday's ballot?
We don't, and I'm not even sure they let actual ballots out ahead of time. Absentee ballots are available at Town Hall, but I think only for people voting early, and that's not what the patron wanted. He just wanted to see what choices were going to be on his ballot.
We found two websites that offer this - the Elections Division of the MA Secretary of State's Office, and ImagineElection.com. Both allowed us to type in the patron's street address, and in addition to all of the candidates and questions on the ballot, they gave us the precinct number and polling location.
Beyond this, there were pros and cons to each. The State website is of course reliable, but it also provided a lot more information that ImagineElection. The extras the State provides are:
- the party of each candidate
- the running mate for each presidential candidate
- indicating if a candidate is an incumbent
- providing a summary of each ballot question, and what a Yes or No vote would mean
Here's what ImagineElection had going for it:
- it was way more easy to read
The State site is a no-nonsense utilitarian text listing - which is not surprising for a government website. But that is a sharp contrast to ImagineElection's use of colors and indentions to visually organize the ballot. The overall feel of their site was kind of a web 2.0 generic theme vibe (which made me question its reliability), but the ballot itself was leaps and bounds beyond the State site.
The patron, an older man, thought so, too. However, he preferred the additional information provided on the State site. What would have made both ballots better would have been information about each candidate (or links to information), to help people decide and make educated votes. I'm sure that is a can of worms, and the information is available elsewhere. But it's inclusion here would have made for a much better one-stop-shopping information gathering place for a voter.
So while I'm always happy to see content triumph over design, this is a very clear case of why design is important. I'm not sure where ImagineElection gets there data, but I imagine the additional information could also be included. And it doesn't surprise me that a government website is basic and no-nonsense, but a little html/css formatting could go a long way towards better serving the citizens.
Also: at the risk of sounding like the patriotism police, I want to remind all Americans to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 4th. It's important.
Tags: 2008, ballot, ballots, campaign, campaigns, candidate, candidates, election, elections, imagineelection, libraries, Library, political, politics, public, Reference Question, vote, voter, voters, voting
September 30th, 2008 Brian Herzog
This post ended up being much longer than I expected, so I added subheads in bold. I ask librarians to read and comment on the first part, and the rest of the post is background information.
When Does A Library Become Biased?
Last week on my library's blog, I posted information about the three questions on Massachusetts' statewide ballot in November. One of them, Question 1, calls for doing away with personal income tax in Massachusetts.
I feel the duty of libraries is to present unbiased, timely and reliable information. However, Question 1 potentially has a huge impact on Massachusetts libraries, and I'm really torn on where to draw the line on this one.
In the post, I include summaries of each question, and what a Yes or No vote would mean. However, for Question 1, we also decided to include a link to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners' stance. We did this because, since so many library services are funded by the state, if this initiative passes, library services may revert to the way things were in 1889 - yes, 1889 (read the MBLC stance to find out why).
It doesn't feel like biased information, because it is timely and from a reliable source. However, since there is such a self-interest involved, it feels kind of unseemly. Does including the link to MBLC overstep the library's role? Are libraries allowed to present the case for their own existence?
Question 1, and Why I Don't Like It
First, I have to say a few things:
- A similar issue was narrowly defeated in 2002
- New Hampshire doesn't have income tax, or sales tax, and they seem to do fine
- It appears my job could very well be on the line because of this initiative
In a broad sense, I can agree with parts of the initiative - Massachusetts' state government does seemed to be wasteful, and I do feel over-taxed. But this initiative seems, I don't know, kind of myopic and not realistic.
In the Information for Voters booklet [pdf] from the MA Elections Division, Carla Howell, Chair of The Committee For Small Government lists points in support of doing away with income tax:
- Your "Yes" vote will create hundreds of thousands of new Massachusetts jobs
- Your "Yes" vote will NOT raise your property taxes NOR any other taxes
- Your "Yes" vote will NOT cut, NOR require cuts, of any essential government services
I haven't completly researched this issue, but I see no facts or logical basis that support the first point, and the last two seem mutually-exclusive. By taking away a major source of revenue and not replacing it, they are essentially forcing the government to cut services, many of which will be essential services.
The actual text [pdf] of the question itself also seems, I don't know, less-than-professional. The biggest goal seems to be to label Massachusetts state government as "Big Government," and repeat that phrase as many times in the question as possible, as if just by establishing that label they are assured victory.
Question 1's Impact on Patrons and Libraries
And this issue seems especially poorly-timed, too. In times of economic troubles, the idea of not having to pay income tax certainly appeals to a base sense of self-preservation. But it is precisely in times of economic troubles that the use of libraries increases.
It seems to me that, especially in times of trouble, a community is better served by comprehensive services provided by a stable government, rather than by self-interest.
Tags: 2008, income, libraries, Library, ma, mass, massachusetts, Personal, public, question 1, question1, tax, vote, voting