Library guide to civic engagement

Tools and strategies for voter education

WebJunction /
Illustrated ballot with the words ‘Ready. Voter. Ready. American Library Association’
Image courtesy Ready. Voter. Ready.

"Throughout 2024, over four billion people in at least 64 countries will have the opportunity to vote for new, national leadership through elections. This means that almost half of the world's population will engage in federal elections this year,” Zola Maddison wrote in her recent article, “Libraries strengthening democracy” (INCITE Magazine).

Many people already turn to libraries as sources of trusted information ahead of elections, and organizations like the American Libraries Association and the League of Women Voters are hoping to expand those numbers. We’ve curated a selection of resources, tools, and ideas to help inform your library’s approach to this important work.

WebJunction resources

  • Bridgebuilding Hub: Bridgebuilding is an approach for promoting engagement and dialogue between groups of people with different perspectives and experiences. WebJunction partnered with IREX, a global development and education organization, to create a space to support libraries with bridging and other civic strengthening activities. Explore the resources and read a collection of library case studies that offer examples, strategies, and lessons learned including:
  • Johnson County Library: Since 2015, Johnson County Library has partnered with their local chapter of the League of Women Voters to hold Legislative Coffees, which invite Kansas state senators and representatives to meet with local constituents.
  • Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library: The library partners with the League of Women Voters to host monthly educational presentations dubbed Tuesday Topics, during which local experts present on an issue of interest to the community.
  • Toronto Public Library: In advance of Toronto's 2022 municipal election, TPL ran two complementary initiatives which offered a series of programs encouraging dialogue around local issues, offering information about local candidates, and encouraging voter participation.
  • Promoting Voter and Civic Engagement at Your Library: This webinar offers practical advice for participating in National Voter Registration Day at your library, plus additional resources and services your library can provide to support voter registration and civic engagement.
  • Resources on book challenges and intellectual freedom: In conjunction with the WebJunction webinar, Book Challenges and Intellectual Freedom: Proactive Planning for Public Libraries, this list of resources can be used to support your library's efforts in being prepared for book challenges, and in upholding the principles of intellectual freedom in your library's services and collections.
  • Social Library, voters' edition: From voting workshops to mock elections, from early voting to registration drives, libraries are emphasizing the importance of, and ensuring the access to, our right to vote. Read this article for examples of how libraries are raising awareness for voters in their communities.

Additional resources to inform your library’s approach to planning voter education and engagement

  • Reader. Voter. Ready. (ALA and League of Women Voters): Collection of information and resources to help libraries prepare eligible Americans to be informed, registered, and ready to vote. Featured resources include:
  • Vote 411: ALA has partnered with Vote 411 to provide information on voting and elections by state and region.
  • Voter Engagement Guide: Practical tips and ideas to help increase voter engagement in all communities.
  • 2024 Election Collaboration Toolkit: Designed in collaboration with the League of Women Voters, this toolkit provides strategies and promotional resources for building on-the-ground collaboration with community organizations like local LWV chapters.
  • Hot topics lunch: Explore resources for hosting a lunch meeting in which community members can discuss timely issues.
  • Leagues, libraries, and informing voters: Guidance for libraries, a joint ALA-LWV toolkit, and more resources.
  • Visit the website for even more resources, including data sheets, tips for interacting with local leaders, and state voting and election toolkits.
  • Information on National Voter Registration Day (September 17) and the 2024 Event Grant Application Form
  • Election season de-escalation tips (Crisis Prevention Institute): Four techniques to help you avoid or de-escalate tense situations, keep stress low, and keep your environment calm.
  • Libraries strengthening democracy: Threats to democracy are emerging across the globe. In this article, Zola Maddison examines how library and information workers can help support democratic ideals through the lens of the Global State of Democracy Indices. (INCITE Magazine, Volume 45, Issue 2, p. 34-37)
  • Rough guide to citizen engagement in public libraries: This guide explores the role of public libraries in facilitating citizen engagement processes and offers tools to help libraries put those ideas into action.
  • Ben’s guide to the U.S. government: Activity ideas for working with kids on voting-related topics
  • 14 Ways Election Offices Can Partner with Libraries, Center for Tech and Civic Life
  • Voting & Elections Toolkits: ALA’s Government Documents Roundtable offers a state-by-state voting and elections guide, created by librarians for librarians.
  • BallotReady: Website that allows users to research their ballot, register to vote, find their polling place, and look up their representatives’ information.
  • Nonprofit VOTE: Offers nonpartisan resources to help nonprofits integrate voter engagement into their ongoing activities and services.
  • Rock the Vote: Organization dedicated to building the political power of young people.
  • Headcount: A nonpartisan organization that uses the power of music and popular culture to register voters and promote participation in democracy.
  • 2024 U.S. Elections Rapid Research Blog: Part of an ongoing series of rapid research blog posts and rapid research analysis about the 2024 U.S. elections from the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public.

How local libraries are getting involved

  • Local voter information (Cincinnati Public Library): Example of a local library voter resource hub
  • Candidate forums kick off at Thomas J. Harrison Pryor Public Library: Article about the first of three candidate forums hosted by this community library.
  • Milwaukee Public Library is partnering with the One MKE civic engagement program to increase awareness of available government programs and provide voter resources to residents across the City of Milwaukee. To help with this initiative, the library is hiring temporary community education assistants.

Libraries are uniquely positioned to play a critical role in voter education and engagement, and tapping into resources like the ones outlined here can help support these efforts. We’d love to hear how your library is getting involved. If you’d like one of your library’s programs or initiatives to be featured, let us know via [email protected] or find us on Facebook.