Greetings community! When we embarked on our mission to #SaveNilesLibrary as our flagship campaign, we knew that we didn’t know exactly what needed to be done, but it would become clear as we tried to do it. We didn’t have to start from scratch though. We have a rich history of wisdom handed down by leftist organizers, activists, and scholars.
That is how we identified neoliberalism at the heart of this attack on our Niles-Maine District Library. Naming the issue allowed us to organize ahead of the problematic board instead of constantly reacting. But that board didn’t arise from thin air, it came from Niles.
Niles’ current mayor said the quiet part out loud during the previous election when he said “Running a Great Village, Library, or Park is like Running a Successful Business”. Treating social structures like a business is at the core of neoliberalism. We didn’t need a mailer sent directly to our homes in Niles to know that this was eating away at our community. We noticed this pattern with the library but it suggested other public institutions would also be targeted.
Sure enough we saw this with the recent privatization of the crossing guards hoisting expenses onto the schools. We launched a letter-writing action in solidarity with crossing guard workers. Two hundred forty letters (thank you!) were sent to Village of Niles Trustees yet not a single email reply was sent to concerned community members. The board members don’t have our back.
The Village board is on a privatization spree with the installation of Flock surveillance cameras (which privatize public spaces), the management of the Niles Family Fitness Center, garbage collection fees (a tax cut for the wealthiest few), and ongoing TIF issues (which siphon our tax dollars into the pockets of developers). That’s just some of the recent stuff too!
The future of our public spaces rest in our collective contributions, not in the whims of profit-motivated businesses. The time to organize against this was years ago! Our mission is clear; left power in our communities!
CAMPAIGN UPDATE: #SAVENILESLIBRARY
Whew, Niles-Maine District Library (NMDL) has not yet been saved. The problems at the library could not be solved by an election alone, much to the chagrin of many who pinned hopes on a simple swap of board members. It was through our collective struggle that we understood the historical conditions of this recent attack.
Our library workers continue to work without a contract and we continue to lose staff who leave for other libraries with higher wages that are properly staffed and appreciated. At NMDL there is still no permanent full-time Facilities Manager, several other vacant positions continue to go unfilled, and the library is being run by a part-time interim director.
Board members who as candidates promised to reduce spending on legal fees and work swiftly for a union contract with increased staff salaries now instead argue with constituents who remind them of their unkept promises, with some board members repeatedly interjecting throughout public comments to make excuses for their lack of urgency in finalizing a contract. The trustees ask for more patience while month after month they continue to pay the huge legal bills associated with their strategy of dragging out negotiations with the union.
They just budgeted even more toward this fiscal year’s legal fees, and this Wednesday, October 18th, will mark yet another monthly board meeting with no news of a contract. This will also be the meeting where NMDL trustees will be discussing the annual tax levy, which was dramatically cut in the previous 2 years so needs to be raised this year. At the September meeting we heard trustees ask to see the figures for a flat levy and for the option of raising it as much as possible (since the amount it can be raised is limited based on a formula), so this is an opportunity for them to follow through and do the right thing in support of the library they are tasked with advocating for, and yet currently the levy options document attached to the agenda only shows two options, a 0% increase and a 5% increase. There is still time for them to make the rest of the levy option information available to the public.
We are still showing up for the library staff because the workers ARE the library and we are in solidarity! We support them in their many public comments. Meanwhile the board spends time restricting free speech and plundering the budget for personal preferences.
Solidarity is important, so to #SaveNilesLibrary we need to save all libraries! We were so excited to chair a panel at the Socialism 2023 conference entitled “Public Libraries and the Neoliberal Threat” featuring library workers steeped in the fight to defend this crucial community commons. Hopefully we’ll be able to share the audio from this panel soon!
Anti-racist orgs across the world are coming out against the occupation, apartheid, and now genocide of the Palestinian people. Jewish Voice for Peace are calling for a CEASEFIRE NOW and urging folks to contact your representatives. Black Women Radicals have curated a reading list. We are in solidarity with the people of Palestine! 🇵🇸
Journal & Topics reports that Niles-Maine District Library board trustee Jason Trunco will not resign his seat as a library trustee over his behavior that banned him indefinitely from park district property. This is a person we are subjecting our library administration and staff to?!
Did you know that Niles is a council–manager form of government? According to the overview on Wikipedia, it’s “much like a publicly traded corporation”. The Village of Niles is more like the Corporation of Niles and residents are its employees. If that is true, where is our union?