The village of Oak Park unanimously approved a proposal to sell the Dole branch of Oak Park Public Library to the Park District of Oak Park for one dollar.
The village currently owns the building at 255 Augusta St. and uses the space partly to store nearly 1,000 boxes of municipal records, about 400 of which are slated for destruction and another 530 eligible for digitization.
The village notes in its background summary that the park district was established in 1912, but the village established its own Recreation Department in 1926. Both entities established parks and acquired land until the late 1970s or early 1980s, when the village dissolved its department.
Oak Park transferred its remaining parks to the park district in 2005, except for a few properties, including the Barrie Center, Stevenson Park and the Dole Center.
The library building was gifted to the village in 1939 by Andrew and Mary Dole but with the stipulation that the building be used “for a public library, public recreation center, or … for such other public purpose” deemed to be in the public interest.
The building is used in part by the local train model club known as the Oak Park Society of Model Engineers as well as by the village, the library and the park district.
The village is expected to save about $25,000 a year by getting the building off its books. Last year, $35,000 was spent on repairs to the building.
Trustees discussed the issue at the March 18 meeting with Park District of Oak Park Board President Vic Guarino, but they made a last-minute change to the agreement, adding a clause that says the park district must continue to maintain the building as a public library.
Village Manager Cara Pavlicek said the process of moving records out of the library and digitizing those not slated for destruction is expected to cost about $25,000 to $75,000.
Trustee Dan Moroney said the park district should help pay for the removal and digitization of the village’s records, adding that it was an issue of intergovernmental cooperation.
While the board did not act on Moroney’s idea, it did direct the village attorney to include language that would require the park district to maintain the building as a library, which runs for the entirety of the lease agreement, ending in 2098.
Guarino said he agrees in principle with the stipulation, noting that the park district would be “run out of town” if it tried to close the library, but said he must first get approval from his board for the change to the transfer language.
He added that the park district will create a senior center in the basement as part of the change and immediately begin work — painting and other rehab — to improve the building.