I have been studying the plans at the Oak Park Public Library to reconfigure the lobby (even though we spent $30 million not too long ago for a brand new building). I am ready to bid on the construction work. I heard the library is using a $500,000 estimate, but even with my substantial profit margin added in, I am confident I can do it for much less.

Here’s how. Start with Ikea. The lobby plans call for eight modernist-looking couches and two oval coffee tables so people can hang out in the new lobby area. Where better to buy sleek designs with a Nordic feel than Ikea? Even with the high-end stuff, I think we can bring the furniture in for 9 grand.

We’ll need computers too, about six of them. I’ve checked Best Buy and
feel comfortable we can get all the tech we need for $8,000.

Then we’ll want some cabinets and counters for a new checkout station and customer kiosk. Here’s where my team can really add value. I know a Polish guy named Stan. He is a master carpenter from the old country. Best in the business.

Show him what you want and he can build anything. Detail? No problem. A little dental molding for style? Easy. And Stan is cost-efficient. Very little overhead. Cabinetry? Let’s call it a cool $10,000.

And I know a union electrician named Mike — all work done to code and he does a real nice job. Works by the hour. Some electric outlets, a couple new lines and miscellaneous work? Say $3,000.

I’ve got guys who can build walls too, if you need them, but to me the lobby looks pretty nice already so I don’t think we do.

What else? How about a little carpet in the new seating area? Some high-grade commercial rugs? Call it $2,500.
So that gets me to $32,500. But that’s before I add a placeholder for things I forgot, say $7,500. Plus my time. What with running around to stores, stopping by the construction work each morning and visiting a few library board meetings, I am comfortable with $10,000 for me.

My total bid? $50,000 for a like-new library lobby.

But that can’t be. How could my bid on the library lobby redo come in at 10 percent of the estimate the library is using?

And that, friends, should be the subject of another discussion.

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