Join us for a #SaveNilesLibrary rally on the south lawn of the Niles-Maine District Library. We’ll gather at 5:45, and will head into the library together at 6:15 for the scheduled public hearing where community members can comment on the 2022-23 budget.
Now is the time to show your support for your library and insist on a budget that allows for proper staffing so that much-needed programs and hours of operation can be restored and the building can be safely maintained.
Please RSVP and spread the word!
This was a petition to ask State Librarian Jesse White to appoint a qualified trustee to fill the year-long vacancy on the Niles-Maine District Library board before any more damage is done.
To: State Librarian Jesse White
Your constituents in the Niles-Maine library district have been forced to watch three hostile trustees dismantle the library for over a year. Library board president Carolyn Drblik deadlocked the board by not filling a year-long trustee vacancy. None of the current trustees reside in the unincorporated Maine Township half of the district, where community members continue to be impacted by lack of representation.
The situation is dire: the library has lost one third of staff since May of 2021 and is down to 66 total full and part-time staff (the equivalent of 52.13 full time employees, or 52.13 FTE), for a library district size that the Illinois Library Association recommends be served by at least 74 FTE. Due to understaffing there were 30% fewer programs offered in July compared to the same time last year, and the library is only open 66 hours per week instead of the recommended 72+ hours per week. The community is suffering under this incomplete 6-trustee board. Staff morale is low and the union wrote a public letter asking: “Is their ultimate goal to close the library?”
Illinois statute originally relied on library boards to fill trustee vacancies “forthwith”, but in 2021 it became clear that a bloc of trustees could refuse to do so without any remedy for the community whose library suffered under a dysfunctional board, so the Illinois legislature unanimously voted to amend the statute. Now if a board refuses to fulfill the duty of appointing a new trustee to a vacant seat within 90 days, the State Librarian can appoint one in the subsequent 60 days. This means your office will have the ability to appoint a much-needed qualified and sincere trustee to the Niles-Maine District Library’s board on August 27th, and we ask that you do so.
The Niles-Maine District Library’s next regular board meeting is scheduled for September 21, 2022, just 5 days before the scheduled budget hearing for a tentative 2022-23 budget that, if passed, won’t fund the level of staffing that this library district of over 59,000 people need and deserve. We ask that you ensure the community will be represented by a full board of 7 trustees before the September meetings.
THANK YOU! Our petition to ask State Librarian Jesse White to appoint a qualified Niles-Maine District Library board trustee was delivered! Over five hundred signatures and many personal messages from supporters. The community wants a qualified candidate now! #SaveNilesLibrary
Niles Coalition has celebrated the 1 year anniversary of our founding. It was the attack on our Niles-Maine District Library that acted as the inciting incident bringing us together to create the #SaveNileslIbrary campaign. More and more community members have been reaching out and folks have been connecting with our organizers at local events. We’ve been meeting up with our neighbors in Niles, Skokie, Park Ridge, Glenview, and more! Please read below and find out about some recent events we’ve attended as well as upcoming opportunities for you to join us!
On April 24th along with allies from Action Ridge, Niles Coalition organizers helped greet attendees at the first of a series of Cook County United Against Hate events. About 200 community members and elected officials showed up and shared messages about our opposition to hate and antisemitism.
➡️ Join us on Sunday May 15th as we unite with our neighbors from Niles, Park Ridge, Skokie, Glenview, Chicago and the surrounding area at our Neighbors United Against Hate event at Jonquil Terrace Park in Niles.
On April 20th many of our organizers, unionized library staff members, and other supporters showed up with signs and leaflets to raise awareness of the unnecessary and destructive hiring freeze that anti-library trustees instituted last May and have refused to lift. Niles-Maine District Library’s staff keep providing services that our community wants and needs, and we’ll keep showing up for them and doing what we can to get the word out about the reckless cuts Trustees Carolyn Drblik, Suzanne Schoenfeldt, and Joe Makula have forced on all of us. Please help us spread awareness by sharing savenileslibrary.org with your friends and neighbors.
There are TWO MORE Library Board Meetings you can participate in this month, on Wednesday 5/18, and Tuesday, 5/31, both start at 6:30 PM at 6960 W. Oakton Street in Niles. Public comments are only allowed in person shortly after 6:30, so if you are unable to attend in person at that time and want your message heard please respond to this email, or send your message to <email@example.com>. If you can please arrive early and join us outside the library to show solidarity and share information with the public.
Reminder about the June election
June 28th is election day this year. The spring primary was moved to June, please make a plan to vote by mail or in person and mark your calendars now! Here’s a page where we’ve collected links and information.
Thanks for reading, see you in the streets!
The people of Niles deserve transparency. We know an open government strengthens democracy and builds trust. Unfortunately, in Niles, actions and decisions that affect our Village government occur behind closed doors. Most residents remain unaware of these actions, but we all pay the price.
We showed up at the February Village of Niles board meeting to implore the board to “improve its appointment process for the various committees to engage a diverse slate of applicants” and we are serious about this. We had front-row seats to how the Community Relations Commission has failed us all. We insist that the Village of Niles fulfill its most basic responsibilities to our community by making sure all people are being represented. We can’t fall back on the ways we’ve been doing things. We need a new intentional effort to fill these committees.
Here is a list of the various committees, commissions, and boards that residents of Niles can apply to volunteer on: Village of Niles Boards, Committees & Commissions. The application form for all of these can be found here: Village of Niles Committee Interest Form.
At the May meeting of the Village of Niles Board of Trustees the trustees will vote on appointments that the Mayor will propose, so now is the time to submit your application if you are interested in participating in one of these commissions/committees/boards.
White supremacist attacks on our community
Recently, white supremacy has flared up in our community. Just like the attack on our library, this one speaks to a deeper issue. Contending with this latest act of terror will require us to come together in community. The Niles Coalition is reaching out to local stakeholders to collaborate on an anti-hate campaign. If people polluting our community with white supremecist bigotry is something that irks you, we hope that you will join us to fight back. Please reach out here: https://www.nilescoalition.org/sign_up/
#SaveNilesLibrary Campaign Update
Library Board meetings are now an exercise in resistance. There are many casualties from the anti-library campaign waged by local right-wing raiders. However, our coalition of concerned community members have stayed the course and support current and former library staff who are concerned about the actions of reckless board members. Here’s what former Assistant Director and Business and Operations Manager, Greg Pritz, who resigned at the end of 2021, had to say: “If enough people believe these misleading statements, the Niles-Maine District Library will never be able to dig itself out of the financial hole that Carolyn Drblik, Suzanne Schoenfeldt, and Joe Makula are digging for it.”
Pritz couldn’t remain silent about the Board of Trustees activities and warned us in a Letter to the Editor printed in the Tribune on February 28, 2022. Read it here: Don’t be fooled by grossly inaccurate statements about Niles Library’s funding.
The next board meeting is this Wednesday at 6:30. Join us to bear witness and grind these gears of injustice to a halt! Be sure to meet one of our friendly organizers!
Also BTW National Library Week is April 3-9 this year, and we’re organizing a ride/walk/roll/stroll that will start at the Niles-Maine District Library in the afternoon on Saturday, April 9th. We’ll share the time, route, and other details soon.
Niles Youth Community
The voices of the youth are often ignored so it is crucial to not only listen but follow their lead on issues that affect them most. We showed up for the students of Niles West and we will continue to do so. The racist attack by anti-facemaskers is just the latest incident that got media attention due to the student rally. We have so much more work to do in our schools. Our Niles Youth Community caucus is a crucial part of coalition building. If you or young people you know are interested in organizing in Niles, please reach out at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Thanks for sticking with us!
It’s time for action! Join us this Friday at 1:30 p.m. to Denounce Racist Attacks at Niles West in solidarity with the Abolition Coalition of Skokie, NAACP Northshore, the Skokie Schools Equity Collaborative, and Niles West & Niles North students against racism.
Communities all over the country are facing pressure from right-wing groups under the pretext of countering mask mandates. At the District 64 Board Meeting last week, a group “barged through doors” (we heard they destroyed props for a student play in the process), refused to wear masks, mocked public speakers including a cancer patient and a nurse, and threatened trustees. Niles West High School experienced racist slurs directed against Black and brown students and staff incited by a mob of adults outside. Superintendent Dr. Steven Isoye stated:
“As a district, we will always condemn hatred and bullying. Hatred because of someone’s beliefs- masks or no masks-hatred because of race, racist remarks, hatred because of religion, antisemitism or Islamophobia, hatred because of gender, misogyny, and hatred because of sexual identity, transphobia, or homophobia.“
#SaveNilesLibrary Campaign Update
You helped send 822 letters to local politicians calling for action and they listened! Thank you to Ram Villivalam, Robert Martwick, Lindsey LaPointe, Larry Suffredin, and Josina Marita for signing this public letter calling for an end to the board’s hiring freeze.
Last month’s library board meeting was a long (over 5 hours!) and embarrassing display of dysfunction. But there are two key takeaways. Carolyn Drblik, Joe Makula, and Suzanne Schoenfeldt continue to block the appointment of a trustee to the vacancy, leading the Secretary of State to escalate the issue to the Attorney General. Library staff union members stood behind State Senator Ram Villivalam, as he read this letter during public comments. He demanded an end to the board’s unnecessary and harmful hiring freeze, pointing to problems covering service desks, properly maintaining the building, and the loss of public programs.
This month’s Niles-Maine District library board meeting is Wednesday, February 16th at 6:30pm, and the public is encouraged to attend in person or online. On the agenda there is no motion to fill the trustee position that has been vacant since August, leaving the many qualified applicants who are willing to serve on our library board unable to help.
Neoliberalism & the Public Library
This month we hosted a speaker session with librarian Stavroula Harissis to put the attack on our Niles-Maine District Library in a broader context. She is the author of “The Fight for Public Library Funding, Demonstrate Value or Demonstrate in the Streets?” We were so fortunate to have the opportunity to host Stavroula and the presentation was excellent. By understanding the cause we can mitigate the symptoms now and into the future to save our library! You can find the presentation portion shared on our Youtube channel: Neoliberalism & the Public Library
Niles Youth Community
We’re looking to mobilize Niles youth to have their voices represented in our community. This past week WTTW Chicago featured the Niles Teen Center. We love seeing Niles youth celebrated, and we think it’s important to have their voice represented in a more official capacity. The Niles Youth Community is looking to make that happen. Please send us a message at <email@example.com> if you or young people you know are interested in organizing in Niles!
Community Relations Commission
With the attack on our library, anti-mask mobs hurling racial slurs at students, and antisemitic vandalism, now would be the perfect time for our Community Relations Commision (CRC) to uphold its mission and bring our community together. For months, we have been calling for the removal of Carolyn Drblik from the CRC and for this body to take proactive measures against racism and hate in Niles. Please email us <firstname.lastname@example.org> to let us know if you too want to have a strong CRC with commissioners that represent the diversity of our community.
Golf Mill Plans
Have you seen the plans for renovation at Golf Mill? We’ve seen very little chatter on social media, and we want to know what you think. Send us an email <email@example.com> with your thoughts and concerns, because it’s going to be important for the Village to continue hearing from the community as the plans move forward.
Love you! <3
Thanks for reading, see you Friday at Niles West!
In our last email Silencing Dissent, we spoke not only about the lack of representation in our governing bodies but the direct suppression of speech. We’re taking action to make civic engagement available to all.
Community Relations Commission
After months of public comments voiced in their meetings and complaints sent to the Community Relations Commision (CRC) went ignored, we wrote a letter directly to the mayor and board of trustees. We believe Commissioner Carolyn Drblik is not fit to the purpose of the CRC and she needs to take accountability for her actions. Stepping down from the Niles-Maine District Library board would be a good first step. We are asking the CRC to step in to repair the harm this attack on our library has inflicted upon our community.
#SaveNilesLibrary Campaign Update
Public Comment Censorship
Spurred by our complaints regarding Carolyn Drblik’s public comment censorship policy, the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor started investigating this under the Open Meetings Act. We also brought this to the attention of the Citizen Advocacy Center who made a public comment urging to rescind policy 3.27. We made a short video to raise awareness of this ongoing affront to our community.
Trustee Vacancy Still Vacant
Library Board Secretary Suzanne Schoenfeldt failed in her duty to report the vacant board seat to the county clerk. Illinois State Library Director Greg McCormick sent a letter giving her 45 days to respond. She, Carolyn Drblik, and Joe Makula are failing to do their duty as trustees. The community deserves better representation and we deserve a fair process. Former Niles-Maine District Library Director Susan Dove Lempke made an excellent comment at the October board meeting regarding representation for the board vacancy.
January 2022 Niles-Maine District Library Board Public Meeting
Hey, that’s tonight, Wednesday, January 19th! Unfortunately they don’t allow remote participation anymore. You can tune in to the livestream here or show up in person at 6960 West Oakton St, Niles IL 60714. Niles Coalition #SaveNilesLibrary campaign organizers and allies have been making public comments at every. board. meeting. since these anti-library trustees seized control. We’re never going to stop voicing truth to power!
Greetings community members,
In an inclusive community, all voices would be represented and heard. We wrote about how public access to Village of Niles Board Meetings has been recently restricted. Now we’re seeing how the Niles-Maine District Library board led by Carolyn Drblik is similarly restricting access and engagement. This is an expected response when we speak truth to power but we should never ever accept such restrictions. Public participation should be prioritized to ensure a truly democratic process.
Speaking of public participation, did you know that the Village of Niles has a “Community Relations Commission”? What do they do? Well we’re glad you asked! Here’s their stated purpose:
“The purpose of the Community Relations Commission shall be to foster, encourage and stimulate the improvement of relations among and between citizens of all races, creeds, national origins and economic and educational levels; and to provide all individuals with an equal opportunity to grow and participate to the best of their ability in the economic, educational, social and cultural activities available in the community. The Commission will also assist in the development of public information and related communication programs to enhance the quality of life for all Village residents. “
But here’s the punch line: Carolyn Drblik, the very person leading the anti-library attack upon our community, is also a commissioner tasked to “improve relations”. How can she serve on this commission and not speak out against fellow library board member Joe Makula’s racist comments, and continue to silence dissent during public comments at board meetings, and disregard the Niles Youth Community’s anti-racist demands? We’re looking into this more.
Speaking of the library, we’ve been very busy setting the foundation for the continued #SaveNilesLibrary campaign into 2022. We’re so excited for the plans we have in store!!
Letter-writing action update
In our last email a month ago, we launched a new letter-writing action: Help Save Niles-Maine District Library! To date, 798 letters were sent! Thank you, thank you! We’ll be following up with the results of this action we collectively took to speak truth to power!
Niles Youth Community update
Our Niles Youth Community caucus launched an anti-racist petition in September. To date 209 people signed in solidarity with our youth. It is so important to champion the voices of people especially those who are often marginalized. No response from Carolyn Drblik, the library board president.
The library continues to bleed
You may recall that beloved Executive Director Susan Dove Lempke, after 23 years years of excellent service, was forced to resign in June 2021. By our count, since June 16 staff have resigned. Most recently the last remaining Assistant Director and Business Manager, Greg Pritz, resigned this month due to this toxic library board. Greg shares his perspective as a guest post on Susan Dove Lempke’s blog. The anti-library trustees continue with their own contrived “hiring freeze”, refusing to backfill positions that staff have been begging them to fill and that are already budgeted for.
Trustee board vacancy
After Trustee Olivia Hanusiak resigned in the summer, leaving a seat open for appointment, the board has been deadlocked and the anti-library trustees continue to damage the library through obstructionism. By law they are supposed to fill this seat “forthwith,” or as soon as possible. But there is still no motion to do so on the next agenda.
Meeting lockdowns continue
Carolyn Drblik imposed draconian meeting rules created specifically to stifle public criticism. The Attorney General’s Public Access Bureau has been alerted and are investigating the matter.
What can you do?
And if you’re able to come to the library’s board meeting it’s at 6:30, Wednesday, December 15th at 6960 West Oakton St, Niles IL 60714.
Thanks for reading!
With several elected officials leaving their posts mid-term in recent months, there are alotta opportunities for new leadership and representation in Niles. First we learned of Niles-Maine District Library Board Vice President Olivia Hanusiak’s departure, then Village of Niles Board Trustee Denise McCreery’s, and now 15th District State Representative John D’Amico’s. We at Niles Coalition hope to see new candidates coming forward who represent our diverse community. Please reach out and introduce yourself!
Our local #SaveNilesLibrary campaign also has wide support including organizations across the country. Most recently the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and their American Libraries publication shined a spotlight on the situation with the hostile anti-library faction of Niles-Maine District Library’s board. Unfortunately libraries in other communities are also under attack.
In Niles we organized and came together in several popular efforts this summer to #SaveNilesLibrary, but Carolyn Drblik, Joe Makula, and Suzanne Schoenfeldt are abusing their power to put the library and its services at grave risk again. Since the the summer, they have been:
- Continuing to refuse to fill staff vacancies, even after the recommendation of the director they appointed
- Deadlocking the board after their accomplice Olivia Hanusiak resigned
- Risking a financial crisis that could impact the library for decades by pushing back the levy vote (find out more with our Levy FAQ)
- Stalling the appointment of a new trustee to the vacant board position (even though a swift process is required by law), ensuring their power to block all and any board work, including the library’s revenue source: the levy
- Abusing their power by limiting speech during public comments in violation of the Open Meetings Act
While we have had successes in slowing down their anti-library agenda, it does not mean the library is safe. Time is running out with the library on the edge of a financial cliff. It is time to call out to our elected officials, including our State Librarian Jesse White. Please take a minute to join our new urgent letter-writing action: Help Save Niles-Maine District Library!
Please also plan to attend the November 17th 6:30 Niles-Maine District Library board meeting and make a public comment in support of the library. This is your opportunity to tell the board how important it is to you that we properly fund the library.
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.