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[EMAIL] Voicing Truth!

Greetings friends,

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!

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Email List Save Niles Library

[EMAIL] Silencing Dissent

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!!

#SaveNilesLibrary

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?

Help spread the word! Share this email with friends and neighbors so they can sign up for our mailing list, share us on social media: Facebook Twitter Instagram

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!


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Email List Save Niles Library

[EMAIL] Write With Us!

Howdy neighbor!

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!

#SaveNilesLibrary

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:

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

#SaveNilesLibrary

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

Events

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.

Press

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!  📢



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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.

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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!

#SaveNilesLibrary

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!


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[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!