This August would have been the 50th year for the Friends of the Oak Park Public Library (FOPPL) annual book fair. Though big plans were in the works to celebrate the milestone, the global outbreak of COVID-19 put a halt to the festivities.
With safety in mind, the nonprofit has decided to wait until 2021 to hold the 50th anniversary fair.
“We always get such a great crowd that comes to this annual book fair,” said FOPPL president Joe Larscheid, “but we had to think about the safety of our volunteers and the public. We felt at this point in time, just looking at where Illinois and the rest of the world is at, it made sense to cancel the event until 2021.”
Even without the unprecedented circumstances COVID-19 has delivered, the book fair would have had a different feel this year. It is usually held at Oak Park and River Forest High School but, due to a two-year construction project at the school, Friends was looking for a different location for the event. But COVID-19 put an end to those plans.
“When Friends of the Library learned of [OPRF’s] construction plans in 2019, they knew they were going to have to find a different space for 2020 and 2021 if they wanted to hold it in a similar way [as] years past,” said Oak Park Library’s executive director, David Seleb. “When the shutdown happened, finding a different location became more difficult.”
As for 2021, Larscheid believes that having a year off from the event gives the Friends more time to find a venue that would suit the crowds the nonprofit is accustomed to at the fair.
“We had big plans for 2020 and we are going to carry them over to next year when we do this,” said Larscheid. “Hopefully, the world will have a vaccine at that point. Right now, we are open to hearing from the community about where they would like it to be held or if they have ideas about where we could do it outside of OPRF.”
Larscheid added that the loss of revenue from the book fair has hurt the nonprofit, which is working out different ways to make up for the losses.
“Whether it is $5, $10, or $25, we would greatly appreciate [donations],” said Larscheid. “We want to continue to raise funds for the [Oak Park Library] while we look forward to having a great 2021 celebration for the book fair.”
Since they can’t take book donations, the Friends’ website suggests that all books residents were planning on donating to the fair could go to the Little Free Libraries spread throughout the village. In addition, the website has a list of Open Book locations where people can make donations.
“Friends of the Oak Park Library does recommend donating to those locations but if you can’t make it out to them, definitely go fill up the little libraries in our community,” said Larscheid. “Usually at the end of the book sale, we have a couple of volunteers take a stack of books and spread the love for reading by filling up those little neighborhood libraries. We think it’s a great thing to do.”