Letter To Our Editor: Nursing Homes, Children Targeted In Makula’s Library Budget Proposal - Journal & Topics Media Group

2022-06-22 19:16:58 By : Ms. Julia Zhang

Journal & Topics Media Group | Serving Chicago's Great Northwest Suburbs

By Journal Staff | on June 22, 2022

Niles-Maine District Library Treasurer, Joe Makula, for the second year in a row, wants to slash the budget of our library. Among the main targets are kids and seniors. The following excerpts are verbatim from a proposed budget he developed.

“Outreach services will pack up assortments of suitable weeded material to have on hand to donate to nursing home libraries.”

At first, this doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Why not share discarded books with seniors? First, because this would replace the services they are currently getting. Outreach librarians use their professional skills to choose books for the seniors or oftentimes the seniors request books.

Second, when a book has been weeded it is either because it is damaged and/or nobody is checking it out. This proposal means that nursing home residents would receive the library’s castaways because they aren’t worth the time outreach librarians spend choosing books for them or the change it costs to drive the van over.

At this time last year, he attempted to force outreach to stop delivering anything to senior living centers. In response, residents of those places reached out to the library expressing their gratitude for outreach staff and services, and begged the board for those services to continue. They even came to meetings in person and signed petitions. Yet, it doesn’t seem to have made a difference.

“The directive in last year’s budget was to stop school visits yet this continues and is needlessly overextending the mission of this Department.” In fact, Library Policy 3.12 clearly states, “Specific services offered by the Library to the schools may include classroom visits by library staff.” Makula’s so-called directive goes against the library’s own rules.

In response to that directive last year, administrations from districts 63 and 71 wrote to the board. They said, “I’m writing to urge the board to maintain the library’s outreach services to local schools.”

Some of their reasons were, “The school-based programming provided by the library’s youth services team in our schools in their first — sometimes strongest — link to the library” and, “The library’s school liaisons have highly specialized children’s literature knowledge that they share with our students and staff.”

Unfortunately, it seems their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Makula goes on, “Staff will produce YouTube video presentations in lieu of in-person school visits.” Again, this is in direct opposition to what library staff and school districts have asked for.

Children benefit from librarians coming to them in school. It allows them to ask questions and make a personal connection with librarians that will grow when they do go into the library. Asking kids to watch a video in school about the library isn’t a bad idea but it certainly shouldn’t replace school visits.

As for making those videos, it would take hours of staff time (from multiple departments) to make just one. It isn’t an economical idea or a logical one.

Another devastating change to youth services; “The Teen Underground needs to be closed and combined in a reconfigured youths and teens area on the first floor.”

In order to do this he says, “the storage room in the children’s area needs to be relocated elsewhere” and “the size of the staff office area needs to be greatly reduced.”

The idea is to convert part of the staff offices and a closet into a teen area! This space would be significantly smaller than what they have now and be a windowless box.

It is clear America’s teens are in need of feeling valued, welcomed, and supported. Not pushed away in a dark corner!

This suggestion would also decrease the amount of space younger children and families have now and it would put teen materials in view of younger kids creating content issues.

“Patron services will staff only the check-out desk in the lobby.” Currently, Patron Services staff do 100% of the passport applications. If they are only at the check-out desk, they cannot be processing applications. That means no more passports at the library. This year the library has taken in over $34,000 in revenue from passports and we still have three months left in the fiscal year. Why should this convenience for patrons that brings the library money, be discontinued?

The proposed budget changes to building repairs are extensive. The library’s professional staff know the building, what kinds of repairs it needs, and are qualified to estimate what those costs will be. However, Makula has decreased what staff asked for by half a million dollars. He declares that he knows better. Some of the projects he asserts his expertise in are the veteran’s benches, parking lot resurface, and electrical panels. He wants to slash funding for those things.

Makula’s budget does not include funds to replace employees the 32 employees that have left since he enforced the “temporary” hiring freeze. His new budget clearly shows that he was lying about the freeze being temporary.

Taking away office space from the youth librarians for teens is more evidence that he never intends to replace staff. Many of the proposed changes are being supported by (Library Board) President Carolyn Drblik and Secretary Suzanne Schoenfeldt. If you disagree and/or are concerned, please reach out to them. Call them at 847-663-6650 or email them at trustees@nileslibrary.org or come to a board meeting to give a comment.

Becky Keane Trustee Niles-Maine District Library

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