Village Might Privatize Library Oak Brook Trustees Looking for Ways to Save Money

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 5, 2009 | Go to article overview

Village Might Privatize Library Oak Brook Trustees Looking for Ways to Save Money


Byline: Anna Madrzyk amadrzyk@dailyherald.com

Faced with declining sales-tax revenue, the village of Oak Brook is considering a radical step to save money: Privatizing its public library.

Village trustees are looking at several options to cut $300,000 more than 20 percent from the librarys nearly $1.4 million annual budget.

One possibility, which officials say would be a last resort, is to turn the library over to a for-profit company that can run it more inexpensively.

"The odds of outsourcing are low," Trustee Gerald Wolin said. "But its not out of the question."

And that has library supporters worried.

"Privatizing is a Draconian solution which will destroy the library as a viable community resource," said Barbara Benezra, president of Friends of the Oak Brook Public Library, in a statement to village trustees.

Privatization of public libraries "is still a very rare phenomenon nationwide," said Bob Doyle, executive director of the Illinois Library Association in Chicago.

Oak Brook Public Library would join just a dozen or so library systems in Oregon, Texas, Tennessee and California that have been privatized.

Typically, librarians who arent laid off become employees of the for-profit company, but with reduced salaries and benefits.

Outsourcing companies also hire more paraprofessionals

to cut costs. And patrons may find they can no longer check out a book at a neighboring library or order several copies for a book group discussion through interlibrary loan.

"There are a lot of negatives," Wolin said.

Oak Brook trustees are looking to make up to $1.5 million in "sustainable" cutbacks communitywide, Village Manager David Niemeyer said. These are permanent cost reductions, not one-time savings such as employee furlough days adopted in some municipalities.

Unlike most suburbs, Oak Brook does not collect property taxes for village services, but instead relies on sales tax to support its general fund. Sales tax is expected to be down $650,000 by the end of 2009. Revenue from state income tax and interest is also down, Niemeyer said.

The board does not want to dip into its $9 million in cash reserves.

"We have a policy that we should make our best effort to keep six months of reserves in the general fund," Niemeyer said. "Thats higher than most towns, but thats because we rely on sales tax."

Earlier this year, Library Director Meg Klinkow-Hartmann put together a proposal for $97,000 in savings that included cutbacks in library hours, eliminating three part-time positions and cutting back on book purchases. …

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