Create an Official District Planning Group/Committee

If you did not form a group during the initial exploratory phase you need to create one at this point. As we mentioned earlier creating a district is a lot of effort, so you need volunteers who will help educate the public, get out the vote, and start some initial work on how the district will function once it is up and running. Once you have found support and interest for a district recruit members who can help do the work necessary to create a library district. One of the five library board members from each library involved must make a strong commitment to the project by serving on the district committee and no board members should oppose it. If strong support is not available from the existing library board(s), the districting project will almost certainly not work. The board will need to give direction to the district committee. What exactly does the board expect of this group? It's a good idea to define board expectations before forming the district committee.

It is also essential that the library director and other staff support the project. Staff members often fear that districting may threaten their employment or their benefits. Be honest with the staff on these points. In some cases, districting will have little effect on the employment or working conditions of the staff. In other cases districting may have very serious implications for staff.

It is probably too early to determine exactly how the districting effort will affect staff members, but you need to deal with the staff in good faith. State up-front that the districting project will make major changes in the conditions of their employment if that is the case. Assure staff that their concerns will be taken into account as the districting process moves forward. Include staff representatives in the group, but ask them to be open-minded about the process.

The board, director, and perhaps staff members need to identify potential community leaders and library supporters for the district steering committee. Identify what skills are needed for running a district effort. Some suggestions include someone with legal knowledge, someone with public relations experience, someone with experience in running a campaign, and maybe even someone with experience in project management.

Educate potential group members about the commitment they are making before asking them to join the group. Districting projects involve running an election and will entail a great deal of work. Group members should have a complete understanding of the process. Hold a meeting with all potential members of a group to define the group's duties and any expectations. State Library personnel can talk to the group about the districting process and the many steps that need to be taken. You can also have someone from another districting project talk about their experience as they can give potential members an accurate picture of what happens.

ASPeN: The New Library Directory

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