Save Niles Library

Levy FAQ

In order to maintain our building, staff, and services, the library needs sustainable funding.  Any decrease in the levy, the main revenue source for the library, will drain the library’s funding and potentially send it into the red.  Below is a FAQ to answer some basic questions about how the library levy works and why it’s important. 

Why is the current Board President, Carolyn Drblik, throwing out the normal levy renewal process?

Normally the board hears a presentation on the levy and the library’s finances in October, providing ample time to consider, discuss, and vote. But Carolyn Drblik ignored the advice of the library’s lawyers and precedent. She pushed the levy vote to the last possible day. She refused to work with her fellow trustees to fill a vacant seat on the board, although it is a requirement under Illinois statutes. She has not shared her plans publicly, though it is obvious from her support for sweeping cuts that she does not value library services. It could be that she simply wants to avoid criticism from the public. It could be that she intends to use a financial crisis to force the cuts the public already rejected. Either way, it is a political maneuver in direct opposition to the most basic duties of public office. 

What is the levy?

The levy is a local tax and is the library’s main source of revenue. It pays for 95% of the library budget and is voted on each year. 

How much do I pay in taxes to the library?

Everyone’s taxes are little different based on the value of their house, their school district, their exemptions and other factors. But for the average household the library is about 5% of their annual taxes or about $33 per month. 

What if the library doesn’t pass a levy?

If the board cannot compromise on the levy and no ordinance passes, the library will levy $0 for the year. Any unforeseen costs like damage to the roof or the PPE required during COVID could put the library in a financial crisis. The library would be in a financial hole that could take a decade or more to climb out of without further burdens on taxpayers. Given the long and chaotic board meetings under Board President Carolyn Drblik’s leadership and the 3-3 split on the board, a fight over the levy seems inevitable. Carolyn Drblik, Joe Makula, and Suzanne Schoenfeldt blocked the board from filling a vacant seat, maintaining the stalemate. Given these circumstances, leaving just one meeting to discuss and vote on the library’s main source of revenue is negligent and reckless. 

What is the difference between the budget and the levy?

The budget outlines how the library will spend the money it has. It sets priorities between purchasing materials, staffing, programming, building maintenance, etc. and puts a cap on all expenses. The levy is the library’s source of revenue, the way it gets the money to pay for the budget. When you create a personal budget for you and your family, you are setting priorities based on your pay. When the library creates a budget, it’s setting priorities based on the levy. So you can think of the levy as the library’s paycheck.

Has the library levy increased or decreased before?

The levy is limited every year by the State Consumer Price Index or CPI. That is the rate of inflation or the increase in prices over time. Things cost more today than they did years ago. If the library had increased the levy at this level every year from 2012, the total amount of taxes levied would have increased 13.1%. But during that time, the levy has actually decreased by 3.8%. In other words, the library has not increased taxes over the last decade and, especially given inflation, is operating on less than it did a decade ago. 

It looks like the library has lots of extra savings. Why can’t it use that money?

The money the library receives from the levy is given out twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. During these times, the library looks like it has lots of money in savings, but it also has lots of expenses and will not have any more revenue for at least six months. When your paycheck hits your bank account, it may look to an outsider like you have lots of cash, but you also have bills to pay, groceries to buy, etc. The money in your account is not extra savings, it’s the money you need to live on until your next paycheck. 

The library, like most government agencies, does have some savings at all times. Savings are important for many reasons. Sometimes tax funds are given out late or are less than expected. Sometimes there are unforeseen costs, like the PPE that was required to keep staff and patrons safe during the pandemic or if there is an emergency repair needed for the building. And the library has also begun saving for a building renovation. All public buildings need regular renovations to stay current and adapt to the needs of the community. Saving a little over several years is a sound way to prepare for inevitable updates and it avoids asking taxpayers to put out a lot of extra money all at once. 

Can’t the library decrease the levy now and raise it later? With the economy struggling, taxpayers need a break.

Costs are going up for everyone, which is why the library is more important than ever. Historically, library use goes up when there is an economic downturn, because more people rely on the materials and services it provides. Before the pandemic, library use was high. More Americans visited their public library in 2019 than participated in any other leisure activity, including movie theaters, sporting events, and live music. And our library in particular had high program attendance and use compared with similar libraries in Illinois. The benefit of library services to job seekers, small businesses, parents, students, and so many other community members far exceeds the small, individual savings of a levy decrease. A $1 million decrease would result in an average of just $40 in savings to the average household. In July, we saw just how important library services are to our community when over 1500 people signed a petition and hundreds showed up at the library’s budget hearing to reject cuts. Also, if the library decreases the levy now, it will just have to increase it another year by even more to make up the difference. For most taxpayers, a predictable, steady levy is better than being caught off guard by costs later and losing the services they rely on.

Niles Youth Community Save Niles Library

Niles Youth Community Petition Comments

Here are some comments from the Niles Youth Community Library Petition. You still have time to add your own!

“I support the demands of the Niles Youth Community”

“Morton Grove stands with you! We demand equity and resources for our Niles Township friends. We are so proud to see the Niles Youth Community stepping up, we are thrilled to stand in solidarity with you.”

“The Niles library board has recently been taking backward steps. This action would be a positive step forward.”

“Save the library!!”

“I am saddened that the Niles Library Board refuses to take an anti racism stance and continues to attempt to hurt the people they are supposed to care about and protect.”

“Libraries are to be places where people of all backgrounds can feel safe and welcome. Racist rhetoric is unacceptable and not covered by free speech statutes”

“Libraries should serve ALL community members.”

“Niles is a diverse village and needs its community services to commit to celebrating diversity and inclusion. Our library board should be representative of the people it serves.

“This effects my daughter and all children in our community

“The library is the only safe free place children and teens can always go in the community. How dare you try to limit accessir access based on race, financial background or anything else outside of behavior.”

“I want to save the Niles Library!”

“Our libraries are great equalizers offering resources to all, regardless of race, economic status, sexual orientation and religion. Three people should not hold these principles hostage because of a misguided sense of nationalism.”

Email List Niles Youth Community Save Niles Library

Liberate the Library Protest Postponed

Hello supporter!

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Niles Youth Community has decided to postpone the Liberate the Library protest scheduled for Wednesday October 20th.

Liberating the library means more than a single protest. It’s an ongoing commitment of solidarity with groups of people who are impacted most. We’re not slowing down one bit!

There are still ways you can show solidarity and stand up for equity:

We appreciate the enthusiastic show of support from the community and are committed to building youth power in Niles.

Thank you.

Email List Niles Youth Community Save Niles Library

[EMAIL] Youth Solidarity

Howdy neighbor!

Leaders of social justice have emphasized the importance of solidarity. It is a crucial element for a just society. All of us are or will be subject to marginalization that dramatically affects our lives. It’s in solidarity that great strides towards justice have been made. In that spirit, here are opportunities to show support for our community.


We’re looking for a library superhero!

It took a lot of work to get us to this point, but now there is an opportunity for change. We need a trustee that loves the library and will work to sustain this community resource. We need new voices and leaders that represent the growing diversity of our community. Please apply or spread the word. The application is available on the library’s website and due by October 12: Trustee Vacancy Information

Liberate the Library!

The Niles Youth Community is advocating for the Niles-Maine District library board to commit to anti-racism and choose a new trustee that represents the diversity of our community. You can support these youth in three ways.  

  1. Sign the Niles Youth Community Library Petition

  2. Show up at the Liberate the Library Protest on October 20th

  3. Share these opportunities of support with your friends and family


A big thank you to everyone that showed up to our neighborhood stroll and our first volunteer event at WINGS. Our walk gave us a chance to meet library supporters and hear their concerns about the actions of the anti-library trustees.

At WINGS, we sorted donations for 20 hours and helped them clear about half their tables. Neighbors showed up with more bags of donations for the store to help them support people impacted by domestic violence.  

Stay tuned for upcoming chances to meet up with like-minded neighbors and give back to the community.


Understanding the underlying racist motivations of the library board takeover is crucial to #SaveNilesLibrary. This is part of a pattern that is happening across the country.

Demolishing Public Libraries From The Inside: Niles Public Library Is A Warning

“Unfortunately, Niles-Maine Public Library isn’t the only public library seeing this kind of destruction from the inside. Not all of the tactics are identical, but following a disappointing election for members impassioned by a particular flavor of political fervor, they’re running for small boards and destroying beloved public institutions from the inside in the name of white supremacy.” – Kelly Jensen, Book Riot

Libraries aren’t neutral ground in the fight for anti-racist education

“Even when conservatives take control of library boards, communities aren’t left powerless. While it may not be possible to undo every policy enacted by conservatives that can curtail library services and materials, they can still be mitigated. Advocates and supporters shouldn’t underestimate how much of a difference intense community pressure and concentrated mobilization plans can make. In Niles, a coalition of activists and community members eventually pressed education leaders, religious groups, and elected officials to speak out against the cuts, held a Save Niles Library rally in the town, and lobbied the conservative board members to either side with the community or resign. The library staff even voted to unionize.” – Lakshmi Gandhi, Prism

Members of activist group seek diversity on Niles-Maine Library Board as trustees prepare to fill vacant seat

Adding diversity to the Niles-Maine District Library’s all-white elected board was sought by members of a community activist group as library trustees discussed a tentative timeline for advertising a vacancy on the board.” – Jennifer Johnson, Niles Herald-Spectator / Chicago Tribune

Applications Open Until Tuesday To Fill Niles-Maine Library Trustee Vacancy, Library Lists Required, Preferred Qualifications, As Does Niles Coalition Youth – Tom Robb, Journal & Topics

Thank you for reading, see you in the streets!  📢

Campaigns Caucuses Niles Youth Community Save Niles Library

Niles Youth Community Library Petition

The Niles-Maine District Library is being undermined by three anti-library trustees: Carolyn Drblik, Suzanne Schoenfeldt, and Joe Makula. Their attack on our library will disproportionately impact the most marginalized people. The Niles Youth Community caucus of the Niles Coalition has the following anti-racist demands:

  • We demand equity at the Niles-Maine District Library by updating the mission: “to equitably engage, inform, enrich, and educate.”
  • We demand resources to meet the needs of community members from ALL backgrounds (including immigrant families, families of color, families from lower socioeconomic statuses, etc) by funding library hours, programs, materials, and services. 
  • We demand racial representation by filling the vacant library trustee position with a person of color who is against eliminating the services and resources that some board members have targeted.
  • We demand youth representation (including middle/high schoolers) to have our opinions be equally listened to and valued, through inclusion at board meetings.

Now is the time to ensure the library serves the needs of all community members. Please sign this petition today in solidarity with this important youth-led effort.

Email List Niles Youth Community Save Niles Library

[EMAIL] Youth Coalition Building

Hello there neighbor!

We have some awesome news to share, with opportunities you or people you know may be interested in. Check it out and please share around!

Niles Youth Community

Niles Youth CommunityA group of youth organizers has joined the Niles Coalition as the Niles Youth Community! We are so excited to work with them in solidarity and help uplift their voices. You can find their page on our website here: Niles Youth Community

Website Calendar

We added a calendar to our website where we will add events we are organizing and events we’re aware of around our community. Check it out: Niles Coalition Calendar

Speaking of the calendar here are some events we are organizing this month:

🗓 Library Neighborhood Stroll Sunday, September 19th

Summer is drawing to a close so let’s take the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors one last time, and support our library.

Join us for a 2.7 mile stroll that will begin and end at the Niles-Maine District Library, while strolling a route throughout our wonderful Niles neighborhoods.

🗓 WINGS Volunteer Event Sunday, September 26th

WINGS Program logo graphic with a hand offering a heart with sparkles.Organizations like WINGS that are making a positive impact in and around Niles rely on community support. The Niles Coalition is organizing a volunteer event at WINGS Resale. We will help the store with cleaning, doantation receptions, and any other tasks they may need to get completed. If you are interested in joining us please fill out this volunteer form. We hope to see you at WINGS on the 26th!


After the damage was done with the budget that was passed, Vice President Trustee Olivia Hanusiak quit. The four anti-library trustees are now three (Suzanne Schoenfeldt, Joe Makula, and Carolyn Drblik), which makes this a deadlocked even three to three split. The anti-library trustees have been stalled from their wicked plan, for now. We fought hard for months to get here. This library board deserves a trustee who actually cares to foster a library that meets the needs for EVERYbody in the community.

To that end the Niles Youth Community is already busy contributing to our #SaveNilesLibrary campaign. They have drafted a set of demands that address the inequitable environment the anti-library trustees are cultivating.

  • We demand equity at the Niles-Maine District Library by updating the mission: “to equitably engage, inform, enrich, and educate.”
  • We demand resources to meet the needs of community members from ALL backgrounds (including immigrant families, families of color, families from lower socioeconomic statuses, etc) by funding library hours, programs, materials, and services.
  • We demand racial representation by filling the vacant library trustee position with a person of color who is against eliminating the services and resources that some board members have targeted.
  • We demand youth representation (including middle/high schoolers) to have our opinions be equally listened to and valued, through inclusion at board meetings.

We fully support these demands and hope you will too! Read more: Niles Youth Community #SaveNilesLibrary Demands

🗓 Niles-Maine District Library Board Meeting 9-2021

The next board meeting is this Wednesday, September 15th at 6:30pm so please consider attending and making a public comment in solidarity with these demands.

Thanks for reading and we hope to see you out at some of these events!

Email List Save Niles Library

[EMAIL] One Down, Three To Go!

*BIG NEWS* on our Niles Coalition #SaveNilesLibrary campaign!

Yesterday was a new day. Yesterday we woke up knowing that on 8-18-2021 the anti-library bloc of the Niles-Maine District Library Board finally lost their stranglehold on our library. Olivia Hanusiak resigned her position from the board! Now the board is made up of 3 pro-library trustees and 3 anti-library trustees. Because of this, we saw the former majority’s attempts to ram through their destructive policies stopped dead. in. their. tracks.

  • Steven Yasell’s work through his corrupt contract was questioned, and his suggestions were rejected

  • The check for roof consultation work from earlier this year was finally paid, avoiding an expensive lawsuit

  • A proposal to patch the roof at almost $100,000 without going out to bid (illegal) was blocked

  • The installation of intimidating armed police presence was questioned

  • The obfuscation, secrecy, and FOIA-fighting was challenged

  • The reckless spending was denounced

  • The degrading micromanaging that is obliterating staff morale was called out

Together, we did this! We did this by showing up month after month and meeting after meeting. We the patrons, community members, workers, elected officials, and organizers united to confront this injustice in our community with direct action. We chalked, chanted, commented, and held signs up high demanding that these hostile board members resign their positions. And through this work we are building a more inclusive community. Because this attack on the library is just one example of a larger issue. To #SaveNilesLibrary and build a better future we need to fight the symptom and the causes.

Carolyn Drblick, Suzanne Schoenfeldt, & Joe Makula must follow Olivia out the door and resign. Enough is enough and we won’t give up!

Campaigns Email List Save Niles Library

[EMAIL] #SaveNilesLibrary All Day Every Day

We hope everyone is enjoying the last days of summer. While the summer winds to a close we’re just warming up! After the big #SaveNilesLibrary rally on July 20th, we’ve been busy catching up with all the new connections we’ve made. This will be the engine that drives all of our campaigns. #SaveNilesLibrary is just the first of many to come!

#SaveNilesLibrary Campaign Update

The rally and budget action is part of a longer strategy. We’re going to keep showing up and speaking up when we see the board not representing the best interests of our community. None of this happens without the support from the community. For example, here we are delivering the We Support Niles-Maine District Library Employees petition 1500 of you signed onto!

Organizer flinging open a petition of 1500 supporters

💥 BAM! Isn’t that a beautiful thing?!

🗓 What’s next? The next Niles-Maine District Library board meeting is coming up this week! Wednesday, August 18th at 6:30pm, Commons Room, 6960 W Oakton, Niles. Here is the posted agenda. FYI we’ve learned that public comments are now only being accepted in-person (not very accessible).

📰 There’s been a lot written about our library in recent weeks. Some articles to check out:

Palaces for the plunderers
The library may well be the linchpin of the neighborly community in our modern society because the state of our libraries can tell us a lot about ourselves.

–Michael Romain, Journal of Oak Park & River Forest

Niles-Maine Library board votes to restore staffing cuts and building hours after public protests, labor complaint

–Jennifer Johnson, Chicago Tribune

Dark Days: Niles-Maine Library’s New Media Policy Largely Redacted

–Tom Robb, Journal & Topics

•And a blog post from the former Executive Director: Of Legal Fees and FOIA requests

It is completely ridiculous that now, in 2021, instead of being transparent, the Library is instructing their attorneys to make sure they reveal as little information as possible to people who ask. It’s particularly ridiculous because in my years as Director, the two people who filed the most FOIA requests were President Carolyn Drblik, and Treasurer Joe Makula. Now that the shoe is on the other foot and they are the ones being asked for their emails, etc., they are not so enthusiastic about responding to FOIA requests. And it is costing the taxpayers thousands and thousands of dollars.

–Susan Dove Lempke, Something Different Every Day

✅ Tip: if you’d like to use the library’s resources for reading the local newspapers, here are digital copies of the print versions: Look in the middle of the page, scroll down a little and click on the second option “America’s Newspapers Chicagoland Edition” and that’s where you can find local newspapers and select the newspaper you want and the print date that you want to read.

❤️‍🔥 THANK YOU to everyone who has reached out to us with ideas, to everyone who keeps coming out to board meetings, to those of you who share articles and blog posts on social media. We will win back our library and we win a more just community in the process!

Email List Save Niles Library

[EMAIL] Post-Rally Update: Our First Win!

On Wednesday night, we won an important victory. Library board trustee Olivia Hanusiak, who originally supported a widely-criticized austerity budget, broke with the majority and proposed an amendment that retains current funding levels for staff and operating hours. Because of all the work our community put in, employees walked into work Thursday knowing their jobs and pay are secure. The library’s hours will not be reduced, securing the community’s access to books, computers, programs, and help from staff.

Thank you! 💝

Thank you to every community member who wrote one of the hundreds of emails sent to the library trustees and the mayor of Niles over the last two months. Thank you to everyone who knocked on their neighbor’s door, sent a text to a friend, or shared a Facebook post. Thank you to each of the over 1,500 people who signed the petition in support of the library and staff. Thank you to the amazing community of over 200 people who showed up at the rally and public hearing on Tuesday, and the 45 speakers who voiced their concerns. Thank you to Ram Villivalam, Lindsey LaPointe, Jan Schakowsky, and Mayor George Alpogianis for your support. Thank you to AFSCME for all their efforts organizing library workers and making things happen. And of course our team of organizers who worked tirelessly day after day, meeting after meeting, hitting the streets, and doing what needed to be done.

Time to Celebrate!  🎉

While we’re taking the time to celebrate this achievement, we know this is just the beginning. There is still a long road to a properly funded and managed library. Even though no further jobs will be lost today, the library is still operating below normal staffing levels. We want vacant positions filled. We want to see the library accessible to the public the full 70 hours it was open before the pandemic. We want programs and services restored. We want funding for a collection that reflects the diverse needs, interests, and languages in our community. We want the roof repaired and the building maintained for the future. We want the trustees to stop wasting money on unnecessary consultants and awarding unlimited contracts to their friends. We will hold trustees accountable for meeting their legal requirement to release information to the public and comply with the Open Meetings Act. Ultimately we want the most marginalized people in our community to have the resources they deserve. The Niles-Maine District Library is a crucial institution that meets those needs.

We’re Just Warming Up 🔥

What we’ve built through this campaign is bigger than one rally or one meeting or even one victory. We will still be at the board meetings, and watching the agendas, and bringing the community together to demand a library that serves everyone. Together we are going to #SaveNilesLibrary and foster a better Niles for all!

Niles Coalition Logo
Campaigns Email List Save Niles Library

[EMAIL] Rally to Save Niles Library

Hi Neighbor!

In Niles we have an undeniable lack of representation in our local government. While #SaveNilesLibrary is our first campaign in response to the immediate threat to our library, we know the issue is much bigger. We will strive to not just bring more folks to the table, but build a better table. It is the foundation our campaigns will be built upon. This work will ensure that we won’t just save our library, but restore, and protect it into the future by addressing the underlying root issues.

#SaveNilesLibrary Campaign


Several great articles came out this week about the attack on our Niles-Maine District Library (NMDL). While the upcoming rally has been getting a lot of local attention, a broader political lens is being applied in pieces on Bookriot and elsewhere. Visit our growing collection to read more!


By now we hope everybody has checked off as many of the items on the action list as they can. The petition is wrapping up very soon so please be sure to sign and share the petition today! Petition: We Support Niles-Maine District Library Employees! Thanks!

Rally and Budget Hearing

Our first rally is Tuesday, July 20th right before the library’s budget hearing! We’ve been very busy preparing. Organizers have been canvassing neighborhoods, businesses, and events throughout the community with flyers for the 7-20 rally and spreading awareness. It has become crystal clear that our community loves the library and folks are appalled by the situation. Please RSVP, come out, and send a clear message that we will Save Niles Library! A few reminders:

  • Tuesday, 7/20, 5pm at NICO park at the corner of Keeney & New England in Niles
  • Bring a sign, get crafty!
  • Dress for the weather, use sunscreen if needed and bring water
  • Everybody is invited (please let us know if you have accessibility considerations)
  • Around 6:15pm a march is planned for the short route between the park and the library
  • Budget hearing begins at 6:30pm at NMDL, 6960 W. Oakton. Upon entering you can sign up to make public comments in-person (emailed comments are not being accepted by the board for this meeting, please let us know of any accessibility considerations), or after all of the signed-up commenters if you would like to speak there will be an opportunity for those who didn’t sign up.
  • Comments at this budget hearing are limited to the subject of the budget, must be addressed to the board as a whole, and can be cut off if deemed repetitive. Full details here:

Regular Board Meeting 7-21

  • Public comments are not limited to discussing the budget, though this is the meeting where they are scheduled to vote on the budget.

  • Here’s where you can always find NMDL board meeting agendas and Zoom links for remote viewing.
    Niles-Maine District Library Meetings

Yard Sign

Thank you all for being part of this community movement to make Niles a place all can be included.