Data-Driven Support for Equity in Budgets
Dallas Public Library
During the pandemic library hours were cut drastically. When the Dallas Public Library requested a budget enhancement to reinstate additional hours at some locations, we utilized a scoring approach to select branch locations with the greatest needs that could be met by library services.
Libraries that depend on municipal funding often find themselves tied to a methodology of distributing services and operating hours in a geographically equal way across their region due to political pressures. Post-pandemic, Dallas Public Library advocated for a different approach to allocating funding when asking for expanded hours. There would not be enough funding to restore hours at every location, so the Library wanted to ensure locations with the most potential to impact residents are opened first.
Key Elements of Innovation
DPL used the Equity Impact Assessment tool developed by Dallas’s Office of Equity & Inclusion as a starting point. The assessment ranked the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on zipcodes and gave each a score. The Library created its own scoring system that also introduced demographics that directly correspond to marquee library services: graduation rate, low English language proficiency, and Internet connectivity rates. This score prioritized areas that would benefit directly from library services in measurable ways.
DPL not only gained support for opening 9 locations requested initially but also received an additional $924k to open 6 more locations. Arguing for library openings based on a well-defined data-driven equity lens allowed DPL to retain support from Council Members who would not see additional hours in their district. Using a needs driven approach for selecting locations also provided an excellent opportunity for DPL to reiterate its economic and quality of life value to residents and council members alike.