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posted: 4/24/2010 12:01 AM

Des Plaines Library bookmobile will keep on driving at least to 2011

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By Madhu Krishnamurthy

The Des Plaines Public Library's bookmobile will keep on driving at least until the end of the year, officials said.

The library board had been considering whether to discontinue the service during 2010 budget discussions last fall after calls from city officials to scale back library expenses.

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"When we went to review and see where we could cut things out, that was one of the ideas that was presented as a cost-saving measure," said Holly Sorensen, assistant library director.

However, cuts were made in other areas, including capping merit-based pay increases at 2.75 percent, to bring the total library budget to $6.6 million, down from $7.2 million in 2009. The bookmobile was spared so that library officials could study the impact of the service further.

This week, the library board voted 8-1 to keep the bookmobile running until 2011. Officials will likely revisit the issue during 2011 budget discussions in September.

"We just want to kind of wait and see what's going to happen at budget time," Sorensen said. "Everyone's glad that it's still there because we consider it a vital service. But everybody understands the economic times and cuts have to be made. If they need to make a tough decision they can do it in an informed way."

In making the decision, the board also had to consider a contractual obligation to serve one stop in Rosemont 24 times a year through August, which earns the library $12,900. Officials extended that contract to run through the end of this year, and agreed to consider contract renewals annually.

It costs $191,311 annually to operate the mobile library, housed in a 36-foot-long bus carrying a collection of roughly 13,000 items. The collection includes popular fiction and nonfiction books for adults and children, music CDs, audiobooks, DVDs and magazines. Des Plaines has been providing the service for 13 years.

"It's like a mini library on wheels," Sorensen said.

The bookmobile's circulation for 2009 was 51,612, while the main library's was 1.2 million for the same year.

Two library circulation staff members are on board the bus at all times. The bus makes 49 stops monthly during the school year, and 41 during summer, hitting each stop twice a month. The bookmobile is used mainly by youth, who make up 65 percent of checkouts. For a schedule of stops, visit dppl.org/special services/mobile library.shtml.

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