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updated: 4/25/2012 12:02 PM

Got $18,000 for a library on wheels? Books not included

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Got $18,000 for a library on wheels? Books not included.

That's what the Des Plaines Public Library is asking for its nearly 16-year-old mobile library that was retired in December because it was too costly to maintain.

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It cost Des Plaines $132,660 annually -- roughly 2 percent of the total library budget -- to operate the mobile library. After spending $6,750 to rebuild the bookmobile's transmission, officials realized it could cost roughly $20,000 to put in a new engine. They decided to end the program instead of fixing the bus.

Since Des Plaines is a municipal library, the city gets first dibs on the sale of any of its equipment. However, the city council this week waived the city's right to purchase the bookmobile.

"This vehicle is on life support," 7th Ward Alderman Dan Wilson said. "It's well beyond its useful life."

Library Director Holly Sorensen said there are several brokers nationwide that help sell specialty vehicles such as bookmobiles for a fee, including one in Wisconsin that works with the American Library Association. That broker recommended the library list the bookmobile for a retail price of $24,999, but it was deemed too high by city officials.

Des Plaines public works officials offered to include the library's bookmobile in the Northwest Municipal Conference's vehicle auction held twice a year. The city sells its used vehicles in those auctions.

Library officials agreed and the bookmobile will be auctioned off May 19 at the Arlington Heights public works yard.

The auction will be televised and people can also bid online. For details, visit the Northwest Municipal Conference website, nwmc-cog.org.

"We're hoping for $18,000, and we are also hoping for a bidding war," Sorensen said.

The proceeds will go into the library's general fund.

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