Book lovers scan titles in the OPRF High School cafeteria in 2017. This year’s book fair will be held at the Oak Park Public Library. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

After a two-year hiatus, the Friends of the Oak Park Public Library Book Fair is coming back – and in a new location. Mark your calendars for the first weekend of August and head to the Main Library, 834 Lake St., to snap up some amazing finds at incredibly low prices.

“We’ve got 60,000 to 80,000 books, CDs and DVDs for sale,” said Russ Glidden, president of the Friends of the Oak Park Public Library board.

The book fair is a popular fundraising event which benefits the Oak Park Public Library. It is sponsored by the Friends, a non-profit volunteer organization completely separate from OPPL that raises funds on its behalf. 

The Friends have long hosted the book fair: 2021 would have technically been the 50th book fair. However, the book fair was cancelled the past two years due to COVID-19. Now that the book fair is back on schedule, Glidden is thrilled. 

“I can’t tell you how excited I am. It just feels so good because it’s something we’re doing for the community,” said Glidden.

All the books at the fair come from donations, which are being accepted until July 22. Those looking to unstuff overstuffed bookshelves can drop off books, CDs and DVDs at the main library, which has boxes labeled by genre in the lobby community space. 

Donations too large to carry by hand are being accepted from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays at the library’s loading dock in the west alley between the library and First United Church. July 16 is the last Saturday to drop off large donations. Volunteers will be there each Saturday to assist in unloading donations, which are then sorted. 

“I come six days a week to sort the books for donations,” said Glidden. 

About 40,000 pieces have already been donated, according to Glidden. Not all are books either. The book fair is accepting donations of CDs and DVDs as well. Donations of VHS tapes, textbooks, magazines and Reader’s Digest Condensed Books will not be accepted.

“Nobody wants to buy them, so we’re always stuck with them at the end of the sale,” Glidden said of Reader’s Digest abridged books. 

The book fair kicks off Friday, Aug. 5, with selling hours beginning at 2 p.m. and ending at 6 p.m. The fair reopens at 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 6. Volunteers will close up shop that day at 5 p.m. The book fair is free to enter. Sunday is reserved for book fair volunteers and educators. Neither of those groups have to pay for their picks. Volunteers have between 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. to shop the fair, while educators have between 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Materials are free of cost to volunteers and educators on Sunday. 

Cash, credit card and checks are the accepted forms of payment on Friday and Saturday. Proceeds from the fair will go toward funding the library’s lecture series, as well as its computer classes, folk music series and film series. The book fair also benefits those who patronize it, offering access to materials at costs vastly lower than regular retail prices.

“It’s a way for people to come in and buy books extremely cheaply, and that they couldn’t otherwise afford,” said Glidden. “It just gives you a really good feeling doing this and knowing that it’s benefiting the community.”

DVDs cost one dollar at the book fair. A regular paperback goes for 50 cents while hardbacks are $2. The hardbacks are an especially good bargain, as shoppers can get cookbooks and coffee table books that would otherwise retail for much more.

“We’ve got coffee table books, some very expensive, that cost like $80 or $90 and you can pick it up in good condition for $2,” said Glidden. “It’s really a great deal.”

Come Aug. 5, the book fair will take place in three areas of the library. Shoppers can find adult and teen items on the second floor in the Veteran’s Room and the art gallery, respectively. Kids items will be in the community space in the lobby, the same place where individual donations can be dropped off. 

The book fair was traditionally held in the cafeteria of Oak Park and River Forest High School, but the reconfiguration of the cafeteria necessitated the book fair be held in a new location, according to Glidden. The library felt like a natural fit.

“It feels organic. It feels right to have it at the library,” he said.

The cafeteria, however, offered slightly more wiggle room. This year’s book fair may have fewer items for sale than in the past due to space constraints, but book worms should fret not. If the fair is as popular as it has been in the past, there is a possibility that a follow-up fair will be held in the future. And the book fair is generally very popular, according to Glidden, especially the kids’ section. 

“People come in and walk out with boxes of books that they’ve bought,” he said.

Glidden is not the only person excited about the book fair’s return. Some people have been volunteering at the book fair for 30 or 40 years. Other people look forward to it for the opportunity to clean out and then restock bookshelves. Teachers use the book fair to set up classrooms and non-profits buy materials to share with those they help. 

At the “Day in Our Village celebration,” people kept coming up to the Friends of the Oak Park Library booth to profess their excitement, Glidden told Wednesday Journal.

“Some of the people gave me a kiss they were so happy we were back.”

Join the discussion on social media!