19 October 2020
Junior Justice League Infographic.

The Lincolnwood Public Library Junior Justice League, a community service club for 3rd-8th graders, works throughout the school year to highlight kids’ voices and interests to provide activism and agency. They choose the causes and projects to focus on - ranging from supporting animals in shelters to civic engagement. Their interests have driven the program’s events and projects; if you create a similar group at your library, start by asking your kids & teens what they care about and want to do! It is important for adults to have the opportunity to listen to young people and hear about what matters to them. It is also essential to center young people’s concerns - and provide ways for them to take action.

Our Get Out the Vote Program Specifics
Get Out the Vote activities are a core part of our Junior Justice League programming. This year, we transitioned our usual in-person Get Out the Vote program to a virtual space, and met synchronously on Zoom. Our community partners, Niles Township Supervisor Bonnie Kahn Ognisanti & Caren Ex of Lincolnwood Together joined (along with their respective pets) and engaged the kids in discussions about the importance of voting and issues that matter to them. Beforehand, program participants (and others!) could pick up Get Out the Vote Postcard Kits at the library to use. These kits are easy to create at your library on any scale or budget (just provide blank or pre-printed postcards/cardstock; stickers, information, or even stamps.) One benefit of having to move this annual event to a virtual environment was that we could provide more asynchronous ways to engage, expanding the program to a wider audience. We recorded the program to create a short video for our community to engage in the Get out the Vote activity on their own using this blog post and our kits, available at any time outside of the event.

Creating your Get out the Vote Postcards Program 
Sending out postcards to family, friends, and community members can be an effective way to remind people to vote, as the emerging research has shown. We all know the unfettered joy we currently experience when we get mail - and having someone remind you to make a plan to vote can be a powerful inspiration to do so. 

As you can see - kids’ creativity is an even more delightful way to inspire voting and engagement. To replicate this program at your library, you can create your own Get Out the Vote Postcard Kit using the resources in our blog post. You can create your own personalized postcards and directions or simply cut cardstock in the standard size. (I’d recommend creating a template that indicates where to put the address and stamp and offer some guidance on how to write a postcard.) Decorating postcards offer an opportunity for kids’ self-expression. As anyone who has hosted a crafting program can tell you, powerful conversations can happen while you’re busy making things. You can plan to facilitate specific conversations with young people and their caregivers while you’re working on the postcards and ask them about the issues they care about - and offer resources to help caregivers have these chats at home or at their own Zoom events with friends and family. 

Connect Programming to Your Collections 
You can connect your programming efforts to displays that spotlight material in your collection about voting and raising your voice. We curated an all-ages voting book display as a central location for information about voting and civic engagement. We put out Get out the Vote Postcard Kits throughout the display for patrons to take, without having to register or request a kit. Our Marketing team also provided sample ballots and a special voting mailer with relevant deadlines and resources, which we also mailed out to our community that linked to our dedicated voting page on our website. We won’t always know the impact of our programs, but communicating to our community that resources are available and we are here to help is key. 

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), less than half of all eligible young people voted in 2016. Our efforts now can help change that in 2020 - and beyond. Libraries offer essential information and resources for their communities to engage in our participatory democracy. Get Out the Vote programs can be an integral part of our civic engagement programming. The work to help inform our community about our democracy is evergreen - and does not end at the conclusion of each election cycle. Instead, these kinds of programs should help provoke further inspiration for civic responsibility and raising our voices. 

Questions? Feel free to email me at eberland@lincolnwoodlibrary.org.

Our guest blogger today is Eti Berland. Eti is a Youth and Teen Services Librarian at Lincolnwood Public Library.