People and organizations that have spoken out against the budget and actions of the Trustees:
- East Maine School District 63 Board of Education
- Dr. Scott Clay, Superintendent of District 63
- Niles School District 71 Board of Education
- Dr. John Kosirog, Superintendent of District 71
- Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky
- State Senator Ram Villivalam
- State Senator Robert Martwick
- State Representative Marty Moylan
- Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin
- Parishioners of St. John Brebeuf
- AFSCME Local 31
- Mayor of Niles George Alpogianis
Eliminating Outreach to Schools and Nursing Homes
Libraries across the country bring books and programs out into the community to make their services more accessible and spread awareness about everything the library has to offer. In our community, the library has offered storytimes, book delivery, and other programs to 23 schools and daycares and 9 nursing homes and senior living facilities. Thousands of students, parents, teachers, and seniors in our community rely on these services.
Makula, Drblik, Hanusiak, and Schoenfeldt have proposed cutting this critical community outreach. In response, seniors, teachers, superintendents, and school boards have sent emails and submitted public comments demanding these trustees not eliminate these essential services. Here is the Letter to the Editor from the D63 Board of Trustees: Letter To Our Editor: Schools Rely On Library
Deep, Unwarranted Staff Cuts
The budget proposed by Joe Makula and the other anti-library trustees cuts salary lines across several departments by about $450,000. During the election, they assured voters that there would be no cuts to staff. They lied.
These deep staff cuts were proposed after only a few weeks on the board, and after staff had announced their intention to form a union. Make no mistake: the people that will lose their jobs are mostly in the lowest pay grades and some are our Niles-Maine neighbors as well as library workers. Aside from the in-depth knowledge librarians gain through a masters degree in Library and Information Services, the staff at our library often have decades of experience and knowledge of the community that are invaluable and extremely difficult to replace. These cuts would result in the loss of decades of aggregate expertise and experience.
The cuts aren’t just cruel — they make no sense. The library was already under-staffed because of positions left open during the pandemic. As a result of the proposed cuts, the remaining staff will be forced to take on extra work, which will ultimately result in less time for programs, services, and customer service. While the anti-library trustees claim that the library was overstaffed, independent auditors have concluded that the staffing levels are entirely appropriate to the population the library serves and the layout of the building. Before the pandemic, desks across the library were busy and staff answered many in-person, phone, email, and text questions per hour. In fact, our library answered significantly more reference questions (often more than double) compared with similar libraries in Illinois.
Slashing Hours of Operation
Makula, Drblik, Hanusiak, and Schoenfeldt are also making the library less accessible to our community. Before the pandemic, the library was open every day for a total of 70 hours per week. Like almost every other public institution and business, hours were reduced during the pandemic. The hours were recently increased back to 66 hours per week, but just as Illinois has reopened and residents are ready to return to the library, these trustees bizarrely want to bring them back down to pandemic levels (just 54 hours per week). This is the equivalent of being closed two full workdays. Either the library will be closed for these full days or reduce its hours each day. Either way, this will have a big impact on access for many working people and families.
People that work during the day often can only utilize the library at night. Others are working night shifts and need to come in the morning. Many families say that the most convenient time to bring their children is during the weekend. The Illinois Library Association sets standards for operating hours for public libraries by population size. 54 hours is below the minimum recommendation for a population half the size of the Niles-Maine Library District.
The trustees have tried to justify this cut by erroneously claiming that the library has few visitors. Before the pandemic, the library answered more questions and had more participants in programs than almost any other comparable library. Before she was forced to resign, Director Susan Dove Lempke reported that visits were increasing as COVID restrictions were loosened and the library hours expanded. At a budget workshop, Patron Services staff reported a 56% increase in items returned from January to April 2021
But facts don’t matter to Makula, Drblik, Hanusiak, and Schoenfeldt. Rather than basing their decision on data and state standards, they’ve used anecdotal experiences from their personal visits. Joe Makula even claimed he could judge attendance by the number of cars he sees in the parking lot as he passes by. Many public comments have pointed out that not only is this an extremely unscientific way to assess library use, but it’s based on faulty assumptions. Many people walk, bike, are dropped off, or use the free bus to access the library. To Makula and the rest of the anti-library trustees, those people don’t matter.
Corrupt Contract for Their Campaign Buddy
In their most brazen act of corruption, Makula, Drblik, Hanusiak, and Schoenfeldt have hired campaign worker Steven Yasell on an unlimited, no-bid contract at $100 of your taxpayer dollars per hour.
They wasted no time showing us just how unethical they are. Just days after these new trustees were sworn in, they proposed the unlimited contract for Yasell to “Evaluate, Assess and Inventory for (sic) Library Equipment, Systems and Operations”. Yasell, a wedding photographer and videographer, has zero experience assessing library equipment, systems, or operations. In fact, the professional staff of the library already do that as part of their jobs.
Even if the trustees still believed there was a need for a consultant, there are countless professionals who provide audits for businesses, non-profits, and government agencies. In fact, a qualified professional even submitted a proposal at a lower cost, but the proposal was not even considered. Why not? Because clearly these trustees want to reward their campaign worker, who obviously cannot provide an independent and transparent assessment of the library. This is the definition of corruption and a waste of taxpayer money.