Benjamin Schapiro elected to succeed Tannen as new EPL board president


Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Evanston Public Library. The library, embroiled in controversy leading up to the eventual resignation of popular librarian Lesley Williams last month, announced new officers for its Board of Trustees on Thursday.

Kristina Karisch, Reporter

The Evanston Public Library has elected new officers to its Board of Trustees, Mayor Steve Hagerty announced in a Facebook post Thursday.

Benjamin Schapiro, a former co-treasurer, has been elected as the new board president, succeeding Michael Tannen.

Current board member Victoria Foreman was elected as vice president; Shawn Iles, a current co-treasurer, was selected as the sole treasurer; and Vaishali Patel will stay in her current role as the board’s secretary.

Additionally, library director Karen Danczak Lyons and the board will hire an outside consultant to conduct an “equity review” of the library, according to Hagerty’s statement. Further discussion is expected at the library’s next board meeting on July 19.

Hagerty said in the statement that he plans to “hold off on making a decision about any new or re-appointed Board members” until he has read the consultant’s assessment.

“The consultant will undoubtedly identify what positive steps the Library has taken, as well as improvements the Library can make in the future towards greater equity,” Hagerty said.

The recent resignation of Lesley Williams — EPL’s longtime head of Adult Services — followed a series of suspensions and disciplinary hearings and has sparked calls for a full-scale equity audit.

Residents demanded an audit of the library’s services, collections and policies, and criticized the library largely on issues of diversity and equal access to services.

Library officials pushed back and defended their practices, citing budgetary issues, Tannen told The Daily in May. Since it became largely independent of the city in 2012 and fell under state control, the library has been working with a budget that is considerably smaller than that of surrounding communities, Tannen said, which has limited its ability to plan programming.

“Librarians are resilient, and librarians are resourceful with what they have,” Tannen said in May. “Considering the depth and breadth of services we offer … you get a lot of bang for your buck.”

Following the calls for the audit, EPL posted bilingual flyers that advertised its commitment to “free & equal access for all.”

Williams shared pictures of the flyers in a Facebook post in May, captioning the post: “Some organizations are true leaders in practicing equity and inclusion. And some prefer to post signs on their bulletin boards.”

According to an EPL email, Williams’ Facebook post violated policies regarding a healthy work environment and the use of information technology by a city official. The email also said the post defamed or damaged the library and its reputation and led to her suspension at the end of May.

Williams resigned in June, as she said she felt the focus on her particular situation impeded a broader conversation about equal access and diversity.

“I hope that by removing my individual status from the debate, Evanston will be able to focus on the injustice of a publicly funded government institution which continues to resist confronting the inequitable service it provides to lower-income, African American and Latinx residents,” Williams said in the statement.

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