Book fair howls as OPRF hikes charges

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By LaRisa Lynch

An increased focus on security at Oak Park and River Forest High School has cut into the profits generated by the annual Friends of the Oak Park Public Library book fair. The book lovers are looking for a compromise and the high school is saying that higher costs were spelled out in advance.

Security staffing provided by the school for the two day August event soared this summer with a corresponding hike in costs. In past years, says Steve Kirshenbaum, the book fair chair, the high school has charged approximately $800 for security staffing and no rental fee. This year the security cost was initially billed by the high school at $5,755. That was lowered to $5,067 after the book fair organizers expressed concern over the cost, says Karin Sullivan, OPRF's communications and community relations director. She expressed surprise that the cost was still an issue.

Sullivan says book fair organizers were informed during a July 2 meeting of changes to its security procedures and the increased charges associated with it. She said the group was required to have one facilitator/security person at the school during the week of setup before the book sale, five facilitators on the first day of the sale and approximately four the following day.

"Our procedures were spelled out to them," she says. "They were aware that they would need more [facilitators]."

"This is the first that we've heard that they are not happy with the bill," she says.

The book fair committee is still looking for further reduction of the security charge arguing that the $5,000 invoice chipped away at money that could be used for library programming.

"We want to keep on doing the book sale and keep on working with the high school," says Kirshenbaum. "It is important for everybody … to be able to have these programs. We want to be able to keep on funding them and the book sale is the best way to do that."

Kirshenbaum questioned the necessity of having upwards of six facilitators to man each day of the long-established book fair. Previously the event has gotten by with one school staffer and a security guard, he says.

Kirshenbaum could not provide final figures raised during this year's book sale, but estimated the event collected between $25,000 and $27,000.

"We have been able to give the library $35,000 in years past," he said "If we didn't have that extra $5,000 in expenses, it would have been $32,000 to the library," he says.

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Marty from Oak Park  

Posted: November 9th, 2013 4:02 PM

I was disgusted when I read this article. Far be it from our tax-supported high school to support a civic treasure WHICH BENEFITS THE SCHOOL at least indirectly, and in fact charge them money that has a far greater impact on the book fair than on OPRF. This is the school district which sued the Village recently. I think it's time for a housecleaning of people--and attitudes--at our clueless high school. OPRF exists for the community and not the other way around. Can't wait for election time!

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: November 7th, 2013 2:46 PM

The school can do what it wants, but the timing of disclosure is certainly rotten. The Friends of the Library were informed of this increase on July 2nd. Just a month before their long-standing annual event. Too late to find another venue. Really not cool, OPRFHS.

Matt from Oak Park  

Posted: November 7th, 2013 1:32 PM

Confused, the high school would have still had the building up and running due to summer school and construction projects. RF Resident, the Book Fair helps funds public programming, not materials. These are events open to all, not just Oak Park residents, so these proceeds benefit many people from across several communities.BTW your library also gets support from OP library through SWAN materials that helps keep your budget down.

OP Res 253 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 7th, 2013 11:26 AM

Oh, c'mon RFR from RF, you use the OP library, your high schoolers use the OP library. Your neighbors buy books at the sale. Your uber intellectual comrades joyfully empty the shelves each year with the smug satisfaction of spreading a love for literature to the less fortunate. Close your streets when Proviso parties, rail against the unfair 2tier pricing for jr. to park the beemer, go apecrazy about highjacked funds for Carolina's baby initiative (EEC), but this one you can probably drop.

River Forest Resident from River Forest  

Posted: November 7th, 2013 11:06 AM

@ A. FOPPL: The school is taxpayer supported yes, but 25% of the taxes are provided by River Forest Residents. River Forest taxpayers should pay for security for an event that benefits the Oak Park Library? We have a library of our own that we also support with our taxes.


Posted: November 7th, 2013 10:03 AM

$5,000+ for security seems excessive. Does this figure include air-conditioning or other costs incurred because the building is open on a day in August when it might otherwise have been closed?


Posted: November 7th, 2013 9:21 AM

Just because you told them you were gouging them doesn't mean they liked it. As community relationship mgr and communicator I think you should have a pulse on the community and you blew it.


Posted: November 7th, 2013 8:42 AM

At $5755, minus the old rental fee of $800. that's $4955 to control the rowdy book fair crowd. The story says that there was one person for the week before, 5 the first day and four the next; that equals (at most) 16 man-days of security or about $309 per security guard per day. Understandably the crowd this event attracts can be a real handful - what with all their perusing and shuffling along with bags of books, but $309 per guard per day seems like a steep bill.

Neighbor from Oak Park  

Posted: November 6th, 2013 10:50 PM

My goodness. That high school runs itself as a for-profit business. Why should we support it with increasingly higher taxes??? It's like Whiteco.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: November 6th, 2013 10:44 PM

Was there a past incident that would trigger a need for more security? If not, then c'mon. The purpose of the book sale is to raise funds for a library, and not to employ people.Bridgett

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: November 6th, 2013 10:21 PM

Why cant we hold the library book sale at the library?Or even the public works garage?Drive in, drop off books , drive out.What is not sold is easily packaged up and trucked out.

OP resident  

Posted: November 6th, 2013 9:12 PM

Security is a good thing - but overdoing it is just dumb. Of course the HS's new security chief has to justify his salary by pointing out all the dangers lurking in our community. I bet the costs will keep adding up.

A. FOPPL from Oak Park  

Posted: November 6th, 2013 11:30 AM

What those in power at OPRF choose not to understand is that they and the building are all supported by tax payers and their tax dollars. The Friends of the Library, a non profit with a history of service to the community, has been holding its sale at OPRF for 39+ years. For OPRF to raise the rental from $800 to $5,600 is unconscionable price gouging. A non profit group of volunteers is raising money for the library. Can't we be reasonable and all get along?

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