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21st Century Literacies: Civic Literacy

Calgary Public Library

Innovation Leader: Gerry Burger-Martindale , Manager, Central Library, gerry.burger-martindale@calgarypubliclibrary.com

Problem Statement

Historically, Calgary has had low participation rates in municipal elections, voter turnout of 32%, 20% and 33% in the last 3. As an organization that supports civic engagement and the development of citizenship skills, CPL took action during the 2010 municipal election to inform Calgarians about the electoral process and encourage active and purposeful civic engagement.

Innovation

CPL hosted a variety of innovative, successful events:

  • “Democracy 101: How to Run a Campaign”: candidates and campaign managers gave prospective candidates information and tips on the electoral process through presentations on running for office and running a campaign
  • “My Vote Could Have Changed That”: in partnership with Make it Good, participants evaluated election candidate responses to questions on values and decision-making strategies using a score card
  • CPL’s 2010 Calgary Civic Election blog provided a comprehensive package of election-related information and Library resources on civic literacy
  • “Don’t be an Idiot!” A CPL blog using the ancient Greek term for a person who failed to become involved in civic affairs, not only generated discussion with customers, but resulted in local media attention
  • “Meet your Aldermanic Candidates for Ward 8 and 9”: moving away from the panel format, this event enabled the audience to mingle with candidates for a more informal, individual experience
  • “All Candidates Mayoral Forum”: at one of the City’s very few all candidates’ mayoral events, audience members listened to 14 hopefuls make their pitch.

Progress

CPL - driven civic engagement opportunities not only contributed to increased community interest and participation in the electoral process (voter turnout increased to 53.24%), but also raised the profile of the Library during a critical time: all electoral candidates at Library programs discussed, without prompting, the importance of the Library to the community and of maintaining adequate Library funding.