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Civic Duty: Libraries and the Disenfranchised: Home


The right to vote is a hard-won right for many in this country. And yet, the reality is that the fight for suffrage continues for many people, including struggles over residency requirements, ID laws, and felon re-enfranchisement. Moreover, efforts to restrict voting rights disproportionately impact communities of color, incarcerated people, and students. With the upcoming 2020 Presidential election, the question of disenfranchisement will become prominent again. Disenfranchisement can take many forms, from the formal removal of a person’s right to vote to an individual’s decision to withdraw from taking part in the electoral process. Libraries have close interaction with the public and therefore have a civic duty to provide information access to their patrons. When providing access to information such as accurate and timely details on voter ID requirements becomes politically charged, libraries can become targets for those who oppose easy access to ballots.

Following a panel discussion at the American Library Association 2020 Virtual Conference, GODORT is hosting two follow-up conversations. This first followup conversation, Libraries Get Active, will address questions posed by conference attendees in the first meeting in June, and center on how libraries and activists can work together to learn about disenfranchisement, rights, and education opportunities. The second event (date TBA) will be more focused on the specifics of the upcoming elections.

Register now for our conversation on August 27 at 3pm:

This webinar has been canceled. 

Confirmed session speakers:

  • Nicole D. Porter, Director of Advocacy, The Sentencing Project
  • Leslie Purdie, Librarian, Folsom State Prison


  • Deborah Yun Caldwell, Diversity Resident Librarian, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Lynda Kellam, Senior Data Librarian/Archivist at Cornell Institute for Social and Economic Research

This panel discussion will provide insight into some of the major issues related to disenfranchisement. In addition, it will provide resources for libraries to use to help inform their patrons about their rights to vote.

This will be an ongoing conversation. A recording of the first presentation in the series, "Civic Duty? Libraries and the Disenfranchised" presented at ALA Annual 2020 Virtual Meeting can be viewed on YouTube:

Check back here for more news and events to get involved. Also be sure to check out GODORT's Voting & Election Toolkits.

Recommended Resources


Libraries & Disenfranchisement Series

#1. Civic Duty?: Libraries and the Disenfranchised 

Presented at ALA Annual Virtual Meeting 2020, Thursday, June 25, 2020  2:30 PM – 3:15 PM CT


Nicole D. Porter, Director of Advocacy, The Sentencing Project
Nicole D. Porter is the Director of Advocacy at The Sentencing Project. She manages The Sentencing Project’s state and local advocacy efforts on sentencing reform, voting rights, and eliminating racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Katherine Ellena, Senior global legal advisor, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)
Katherine Ellena is the Senior Global Legal Advisor at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). She is is responsible for providing strategic leadership and technical assistance to IFES’ work on legal and regulatory frameworks for elections, electoral dispute resolution and electoral integrity. Katherine has written on electoral integrity within a US context and will provide a comparative perspective to the panel.

Leslie Purdie, Librarian, Folsom State Prison
Leslie Purdie is a Librarian at Folsom State Prison and the Folsom Women’s Facility in Represa, California. Before paying her debt to society, Ms. Purdie worked in public libraries where she developed an interest in working with underserved populations. She participated in the ALA Emerging Leaders Class of 2019 and is a student at the SJSU iSchool, where she will complete her MLIS degree in the fall of 2019. Currently, she is working to implement a voter education program for incarcerated individuals.

Moderator: Deborah Yun Caldwell, Diversity Resident Librarian, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

#2. Civic Duty: Libraries Get Active 

Thursday August 27, 2020  3:00 PM – 4:30 PM EDT

Registration now open: