Task A Nine: Recruit New Group Members

Once you have found support and interest for a district, recruit new members who can help the original group 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 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. Other community members should be included in the group.

It is 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. 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. Because of this, group members should have a complete understanding of the process. Hold a meeting with all potential members of a group. State Library personnel can talk to the group about the districting process and the many steps that need to be taken. Have someone from another districting project talk about their experience, as they can give potential members a more accurate picture of what happens.

Ask people to make a commitment at the end of the meeting. Another sign of a successful districting project is the formation of a good group that includes some of the community's opinion leaders.

Reality Checks

The Assessment Phase is the time to determine whether a successful districting effort is possible and to make some preliminary decisions about what a district might look like. Make time for reality checks throughout the entire districting process.

Reality checks should be group activities that can be included on the agendas of regular meetings or they can be the sole purpose of a meeting. When conducting a reality check, review the list of tasks that should have been completed. Ask whether or not the tasks have been completed and whether the information gained indicates that a districting effort is likely to be successful. Examine documentation that has been developed as part of the process.

Ask people about their own energy level and enthusiasm for the project. It is especially important to check with library board members to see about their level of commitment.

If a reality check is positive, then it will encourage the group to continue with the project. If the reality check indicates that there are problems, then it may indicate that the group needs to change direction, slow down, or that a district library is not possible under present conditions. Find this out during the Assessment Phase, before a great deal of time, energy, and money is poured into the effort. If the Assessment Phase makes it clear that a districting effort is likely to fail, discuss other options for obtaining or improving library services. These options can be explored with State Library personnel.