New Era for Niles-Maine Township Library
The Niles-Maine Township Library has gone through a very difficult and truly transformative period since the Spring 2021 trustee election that saw new board members start to dismantle the library from the inside. Their actions, including enacting a "temporary” hiring freeze and slashing the library's budget, have been detrimental to the library and the community it serves. The fight to safeguard the library was a long one - and was rather acrimonious at times.
EveryLibrary was able to show up and support pro-library activists over the course of these last 2 years. We helped restore a slate of good library trustees to the Niles-Maine Township Library board last month. It’s a wonderful example of how EveryLibrary is making a difference beyond book bans. I am proud to have stood alongside the #SaveNilesLibrary Coalition, the local AFSCME chapter, other good government and community stakeholders, and hundreds of local residents in finally electing a new slate of trustees to reset the course for the library. I am also proud to be included alongside Liz and the Save Niles Library Coalition in being recognized by the Chicago Tribune as a Chicagoan of the Year for 2022.
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I was contacted early in 2021 to help support pro-library stakeholders and the Coalition to safeguard the library - and eventually, restore a slate of good trustees to the board. From the beginning, the anti-library trustees refused to fill vacant staff positions while redirecting public funds to private businesses, including outside accountants and their own campaign videographer. They overspent the library’s budget on legal expenses, largely due to violations of the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act. Prior to their tenure, the Niles-Maine District Library consistently ranked among the best in the country. In successive budgets, they consistently voted to shrink the library’s budget for services, programs, and collections.
It has been my pleasure to get to know so many dedicated pro-library activists like Becky Keane, the new Niles-Maine Township 2023 Board President. She said;
“EveryLibrary has been a source of support and information for me and the NMDL community for well over two years. I reached out before the 2021 election and they responded immediately. Since then, their knowledge and expertise were always available to us at a moment's notice. Their guidance significantly impacted the way we fought against the takeover of our library. Without EveryLibrary, we probably wouldn't have been as successful.”
EveryLibrary's comprehensive support included organizing and supporting public outreach and engagement across the district. We worked with local organizers and activists to train, coach, and guide along with advising on media strategy and outreach to elected officials. Liz Seskin, a lead organizer with the #SaveNilesLibrary Coalition, said this about working with EveryLibrary;
“When we felt outnumbered and overwhelmed, and when we didn't know what to do, EveryLibrary was there to support us and help us build a movement. We not only won a majority on our library board, but we built a political network for future elections.”
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The local Save Our Library PAC ran trustees in the spring 2023 elections to retake the library from the incumbents who cut the library budget. Following the May 2023 board election and the appointment of Becky Keane as board president, the library has embarked on a journey of positive change. Keane outlined her priorities, including staff safety, the completion of the library employees' first union contract, and fostering a spirit of trust and collaboration among trustees.
The collaboration between the #SaveNilesLibrary coalition and EveryLibrary is an example of library advocacy ecosystem building in action. “I personally learned so much,” added President Keane. “Having such a professional and caring organization [like EveryLibrary] behind me made it much easier for me.” As these newly elected board members forge a path toward a brighter future for the library, its staff, and the community it serves, EveryLibrary will continue to stand with them.