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.
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.
“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
“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 memberseventually 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
“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
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
A 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
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:
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 isalready busy contributingto 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.
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!
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!
💥 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
“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: https://www.nileslibrary.org/research 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!
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!
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.
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!
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: https://www.nileslibrary.org/board-trustees
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.
The next meeting of the library Board of Trustees is a really important one. On July 20th, they will hear public comments on the budget they proposed, which makes sweeping cuts to hours, staff, materials, and services. We want them to hear from as many different people as possible, so we need to get the word out.
Here’s the action plan list, how many can you check off? ✅
Like the amazing activist, grassroots organizer, and educator Mariame Kaba says: “It isn’t true that ‘noone is doing X’. In fact, it’s always true that ‘someone is doing X’”. That is to say that everywhere people are creating all sorts of ways to help others out. Niles is no exception because we just discovered the Solidarity Cards for Incarcerated Teens event programming at the Niles-Maine DIstrict Library for youth in grades 7-12. Inspired by Circles & Ciphers, it’s an amazing opportunity for our community. More of this please!
Public Meeting Access
The Village of Niles board meetings have just gotten less accessible. During the pandemic meetings were virtual which allowed for remote access, public comments over zoom and emailed comments. On June 18th the Village quietly announced in an online newsletter that because Covid restrictions are being lifted there are no more options for remote participation of any form, including emailed comments.
A community is cared for best when all voices are accommodated. This return to less accessibility is an appalling direction for our government to take. Contact us if your voice is being silenced or if you know somebody who is being systematically excluded like this.
Joe Makula’s Buddy Steven Yasell
It’s reported that patrons at the library saw Trustee Joe Makula shepherding Steven Yasell around the library on Friday June 29th. Does this mean they hired him anyway regardless of the public outcry? Did he even pass the background check they agreed to require like other library workers? Is this how they’re paying him for their campaign video work? Is our patron information safe in his hands? So many questions, so little transparency.
Capitol Fax: “Elections have consequences”
Speaking of which, Rich Miller of Capitol Fax took notice of this attack on our community and wrote this blog post mentioning Steven Yasell (check out that “oppo file”), the unionization of library workers, and the ousting of Susan Dove Lempke.
>> ACTION ITEMS 🔥
So many people have been wanting to take action, we hear you! Here is a whole smorgasbord of opportunities to fight for our library, to fight for justice!
🔥 Last Minute Special Board Meeting Wednesday, June 30th 6:30pm
The library board just added the SEVENTH meeting for June; another Special Board Meeting with only 2 days’ notice. Trustee Suzanne Schoenfeldt claims “Personal satisfaction comes from working for, and with people of the community”. How is this meeting schedule in any way accommodating the people of the community? The agenda includes a motion to deny public access to the library down to only 54 hours per week! That is below the Illinois Library Association’s standards for a library district our size. They’re also planning to add restrictive anti-transparency policies regarding press and communications. Public comments can be made in person or via email to: email@example.com by 5:30pm.
🔥 4th of July Parade
We’re marching in the parade y’all! We have parade spots still open but filling up fast! There are other ways to join too for people who want to join us to show appreciation for the library and staff and raise awareness. It’s going to be a great time so please come on out and cheer for the Niles-Maine District Library! Fill out this form to sign up!
🔥 Join us on July 20th
This is the one, mark your calendar NOW because you won’t want to miss it! We are bringing our voices together in person to let the anti-library board what we think of their grim austerity budget that is gutting our Niles-Maine District Library. More details to come but we are asking everybody to come out for this one.
Budget cuts are numerous and include:
Cuts to hours and staffing putting our library’s per capita grant funding at risk. Per Illinois law (see 75 ILCS 10/8.1.) there are certain standards that public libraries must meet in order to receive state funding. Our library board’s slashed budget and the return to pandemic-level operating hours will make it impossible for us to meet some of these standards.
Significant cuts to the Teen AV budget. We don’t understand why Joe Makula is targeting the Teen Underground for reduced access. Making the library less appealing to teens doesn’t help anyone. TEENS RISE UP!
Cuts to staff salaries that are partially due to the board refusing to allow the library to fill any vacancies ($144,299) and the rest of the cuts will impact the wages of existing staff ($415,118). Staff will either be fired or have their pay drastically cut. This includes a direct attack on employees even in the lowest pay grade.
Discontinuing all school and nursing home outreach. The trustees have heard passionate testimony regarding the importance of school outreach from our library’s former director, staff, the local school district administrators, and many residents. Yet they plan to disregard this important role of our library.
Local news outlets have been covering the extreme cuts and loathsome behavior of the anti-library clan of trustees: Carolyn Drblik, Joe Makula, Olivia Hanusiak, & Suzanne Schoenfeldt.
The lessons we’re learning from the #SaveNilesLibrary campaign have been informing the organizational structure of the Niles Coalition.We’ve been networking and making so many new friends. We’re excited to connect with so many of you. Another world is possible, we just know it!
As you know, our cherished Niles-Maine District Library was taken over by an anti-library bloc of trustees: Carolyn Drblik, Olivia Hanusiak, Suzanne Schoenfeldt, & Joe Makula. Their heartless attitude toward the library staff and patrons is such a cruel and shameful display that is causing so much anguish in our community. But we continue to bear witness during meeting after intolerable meeting.
🌟 Secondly and even bigger news is that the employees of Niles-Maine District Library are organizing their union with AFSCME Council 31! Through the tireless efforts of library workers and allies they accomplished this amazing feat in such a short time frame. We were honored to sign on as a supporter of this effort to secure worker rights! We hope this helps protect them from the brunt of the wrecking ball but we aren’t slowing down to find out!
🕊 Unfortunately, through all these wins, the anti-library bloc confirmed one of our worst suspicions on the night of June 18th, 2021. After an unprecedented 4-hour closed executive session while desperate library workers waited and waited, the board forced the resignation of beloved Executive Director Susan Dove Lempke. (video) The impact upon the community is devastating.
📄 You can always read out blog post updates at our campaign page at SaveNilesLibrary.org. Two new blog posts have been published recently:
📢 What’s next you ask? We have been inundated with requests for action. We hear you and we will be reaching out with specific opportunities. For one, the Niles 4th of July parade is coming up and we want to get as many people as possible along the route wearing buttons, stickers, building awareness, and cheering on the librarians. Specific details about that and future actions will be sent soon. Please stay tuned!
PS- here are some signs you can print out and put in your windows!