Tag Archives: elections

Election Season Reading Challenge

When it comes to politics, there is one thing that most people agree on: making an informed decision about your vote matters. Of course there are myriad ways to stay informed and educated, and it’s great to consult multiple sources of information. So, gearing up for the grind of election season, I decided to give myself a small reading challenge. There are only three prompts, so feel free to join me!

Go Vote

Image by Chris Piascik. Click through for the artist’s website.

1. Read a Book About an Election Issue You Care About – Hot topics in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election include immigration, gun controlhealthcare, and more, but I urge you to define what matters most to you and go from there. In terms of “issues” books, I recently read Not Funny Ha-Ha, a graphic novel that straightforwardly describes two different women who choose to have abortions, and The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, which I can’t stop talking about. I have plenty more on my “to read” list, including Burning Down the House: the End of Juvenile Prison and Between the World and Me.
2. Read a Book About Media or Politics – To me, the political process is sometimes as interesting and relevant as the outcomes. Insight about behind-the-scene antics help us understand how arguments and messages are being constructed, and interpreted (or misinterpreted).  Right now, I’m in the midst of Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class and The Influencing Machine, and loving them both.
3. Read a book about or by a candidate  – There are so many choices, I’m not even sure where to start. Choose your own adventure:
How will you be keeping up-to-date this election season?


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Who you should vote for…

…Only you can decide that.  And while plenty of network news anchors, newspapers, bloggers, protesters, lobbyists and the candidates themselves have ideas about which lever you should pull (or glowing rectangle you should touch), the library does not officially endorse any candidates or political views. We do, however, help you find the resources to make the most informed decision. Our Government & Law Research page directs you to information about the 2008 Presidential Elections, booklists about the Presidential candidates, resources on political parties and tools for voters.

First of all, do you know where to vote? If not, you can go to Allegheny County’s Polling Place Locator to find out.  (If you’re reading this from beyond the boundaries of lovely Pittsburgh, PA, you can find polling places from any state at Vote411.)  Secondly, do you know how to work the machine?  Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 will only be the second Presidential election I’ve been eligible to vote in, but I’ve been to the ballots enough times to miss those funky retro curtains and oh-so-analog, Wizard-of-Oz-style voting booths that the electronic machines replaced.  If you’ve never voted before, or just want a rehearsal, Allegheny County Elections Division provides a tutorialof the newer I-Votronicmachines.  Make sure you are familiar with your voting rights in case you run into a problem at the polls.  If that should happen, ask to fill out a provisional ballot, so your vote will still count if a judge determines that you are indeed eligible.

Finally, there’s the big question.  Just who will you vote for?  There is still plenty of time to look into candidates’ positions on important issues–and plenty of guides to help you do it.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette features an online 2008 Voter Guide, which provides your district numbers and lists candidates running for each race.  It also allows side by side comparisons of candidates’ information and answers to questions.  I usually rely on the non-partisan League of Women Voters for voting information.  The PA League of Women Voters provides comprehensive guides for state and county races as well, supplying candidates’ information, priorities and responses to questions.  Other great sources of non-partisan voting info include Votes PA, The League of Young Voters and Declare Yourself.  Many organizations and newspapers provide election guides endorsing candidates based on their unique values and causes, so you can look to those sources for direction on issues especially important to you. 

Most importantly, please, please, please vote!  As the Just Harvest voting guide states, “Politicians listen to those who vote,” and voting turnouts vary drastically according to demographics broken down by factors like economic status, gender, race and age.  If you want to be heard, you have to vote.  If you need any help, by all means, ask a librarian–we’ll be elated.


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How do you want to spend the next 6 months?

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend the biennial conference of the Public Library Association in Minneapolis.  I went to all kinds of sessions, with topics ranging from leadership, services to the GLBT community, readers’ advisory, a romance author panel, to recruiting and educating new librarians.  I learned about many fun and exciting things that other libraries are doing, and it was truly inspiring to gather with thousands of other librarians who are working so hard to serve you, The Public.
One of the most interesting sessions I attended, however, was one called “Bridging the Divide:  Libraries Transform Communities.”  All about civic participation and citizen engagement, the session focused on the use of deliberative dialogue to discuss the most challenging and divisive issues we face, both locally and nationally.  As we get ready to go to the polls tomorrow, and again in November, the ideas and approaches I discovered seemed especially timely.  Politicians seem to find it necessary to debate, differentiating their point of view from their opponents and doing their best to convince us that they know best; however, as a society, we may want to take a different course.
The basis of deliberative dialogue is gaining an understanding of multiple perspectives of an issue.  In fact, an essential part of the process is to explore at least three or more approaches to each issue, which serves as a starting place for developing entirely new solutions.  Which is where the library comes into the picture as a central place that provides information on any topic one might want to address.  These programs, in which groups of citizens gather to speak with one another, to explore the issues, and to build consensus, are offered all over the country, in libraries, schools, community centers and other settings.
While I would love to offer such a program here at this library (let us know if you’re interested by commenting or emailing!), we don’t have to wait for a formal session to learn about viewpoints other than our own.  In addition to many, many books, and several magazine and newspaper databases that provide news articles about a myriad of topics, there are three databases that are here for the purpose of learning the multiple sides of current issues.  Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center, Facts.com: Issues and Controversies, and CQ Researcher gather book chapters, articles, essays, and other full-text reports.  All three are available from inside and outside the library with a Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh library card, so you can start discovering how others might be thinking about an issue right now!  Bring your new-found knowledge to your next “discussion” with your brother-in-law or your neighbor.  It could make the next six months a whole new experience for you.


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