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Liberate Libraries Campaign

Bridgeport Public Library

Innovation Leader: Scott Hughes, City Librarian, shughes@bridgeportpubliclibrary.org

Problem Statement

Over the past 25 years Bridgeport, Connecticut city spending had increased 39 percent, while the portion allocated to Bridgeport Public Library had declined almost 45 percent. Ten years ago one penny of every tax dollar went to the library system. Now it was even less. As the library budget had been chipped away, collections, hours, infrastructure and programming had been cut. Only half the number of librarians remained and the skeleton staff now could barely keep the library alive. Still, it was the agency most used in Bridgeport.

Innovation

The Bridgeport Public Library Board of Directors, staff, friends and community advocates lead the first library operating referendum campaign (known as Liberate Libraries Political Action Committee) in Connecticut state history. The Bridgeport city attorney went to court to try to block the use of this referendum, but Superior Court Judge David Tobin ruled that the registered voters in Bridgeport had the legal right to decide library funding. Despite flat city funding, the Bridgeport Public Library managed to increase their hours of operation by 20% system-wide.

Progress

On November 3, 2009, the Bridgeport library ballot question passed by a 2-1 margin. This measure has increased the library’s operating budget 45%. On November 18, 2009, the Bridgeport Public Library Board of Directors adopted the library’s long range strategic plan entitled "The Bridgeport Public Library: Building Community…Helping People…Changing Lives…" Library usage and circulation has increased 20% and 15% respectively over the past year.