IU Libraries is encouraging students to register to vote and improve their voting literacy by offering resources such as voting literacy drop-in hours, the Library Resource Guide on 2020 United States Election and a government alert feature.
IU is participating in the Big Ten Voting Challenge, a contest across all 14 Big Ten schools that monitors the largest voter turnout at the election and the most improved voter turnout from previous elections among students.
Lisa-Marie Napoli, director of Political and Civic Engagement at IU, said President Michael McRobbie allocated $10,000 for resources and marketing for the Big Ten Voting Challenge in both 2018 and 2020.
Napoli said at IU-Bloomington, student voter turnout tripled from 2014 to 2018. She said she thinks the challenge will continue to receive support and create new resources.
“We want to create a unified spirit on campus and we think that this is one way to do it,” she said.
Napoli said while voting is one form of civic engagement, she hopes the challenge will lead students to be increasingly engaged by paying attention to issues, writing to their leaders, volunteering and more.
Emily Alford, head of Government Information, Maps and Microform Services at IU Libraries, created the Library Resource Guide on 2020 United States Election along with Meredith Knoff, Learning Commons librarian, and Sarah Alexander, a reference and technical associate.
The 2020 election guide incorporates information from an election guide created in 2018, but is updated with information about this year’s elections, Alford said. The guide provides links, videos, playlists, congressional maps and other resources about the election and voting.
Alford said the voting literacy drop-in hours are intended to help students connect with resources to find their polling location, make responsible decisions and find quality information about the upcoming elections.
“Ultimately it’s a student’s own decision how they want to interpret information and fill out their ballot,” Alford said. “But we are here to provide the tools to help them make those decisions.”
The government alert feature offers students an update every two weeks based on the information the student or faculty member indicates they are interested in, such as education or healthcare, Alford said.
Knoff said she believes it is important for students and faculty to be able to locate and evaluate information about the 2020 election in order to be civically engaged, informed voters.
“If you want to be as engaged as you should be, that really requires a nuanced understanding of the situations and the issues at hand, ” Knoff said.
Nicholae Cline, librarian for media studies, gender studies and philosophy, along with Brett Hoffman, a graduate student and arts and humanities library assistant, created four playlists, each limited to an hour in length, for the guide.
The four playlists have various themes. One compiles campaign songs from U.S. presidential elections, one is about democracy as a concept, one explores democracy as presented by artists who are women of color and one considers democracy from artists around the world.
“Nicholae and I found it important to include a mix of music celebrating democracy, on the one hand, and calling out the lack of representation and justice promised by democracy, on the other,” Hoffman said in an email.
Cline said it’s important to include, in playlists with themes like democracy, the perspectives of those whom democracy, in both current and historical forms, does not properly serve.
Hoffman said he thinks it’s essential to stay informed on elections so citizens can vote for the representatives who will represent their voices. Using the opportunity to educate yourself and vote allows your voice to be heard as well as helping the unrepresented, he said.
IU Libraries will host a post-election event to answer students’ questions about how to continue to stay politically and civically engaged throughout the next four years before the nextpresidential election.
“I think it’s really important too, when you consider what it means to be engaged, is that it doesn’t just happen at major elections,” Knoff said. “These are issues that continue to exist outside of the election cycle.”