Des Plaines library won't go dark in December after all

The Des Plaines Public Library won't go dark in December after all, officials said this week.

Facing a budget shortfall, library officials had planned on closing the library Dec. 5 for the remainder of the year, unless the city of Des Plaines cosigned a bank loan and Cook County property tax disbursements arrive.

However, the library board this week approved an alternate plan to keep the library open with minimum staffing and limited hours.

Under the proposal, library hours will be reduced from 72 hours to 52 hours a week, and staffing would be cut from the current 100 employees to 32 employees for the month.

Patrons will continue to have access to basic library services during those hours, Director Holly Sorensen said.

“So that would allow us to stay open with essential services and we would be able to pay everybody,” Sorensen said. “We hope it doesn't come to that though. It's still a better option (than closing).”

Library staff would go on a rotation to allow as many employees to earn some pay during the month, Sorensen said.

December hours would be: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Though the library board has not taken the option of closing the library completely off the table, “this is the plan that would be put into place first,” Sorensen said.

As of Sept. 30, the library had $1.1 million on hand, but needed $1.7 million to meet the year's remaining payroll and expenses.

With full staffing, the estimated cost to keep the library open through December is $550,000. But without the bridge loan or property tax receipts, the library would end up roughly $148,000 in the red on Dec. 31, Sorensen said.

“With this skeleton staffing, we would wind up with $250,000 (on hand) ... we would cut December (costs) down to $330,000,” she added.

The Des Plaines city council is expected to review the library's loan request at its Nov. 1 meeting. While the original request was for up to $1.5 million, the library needs only $500,000 by the first week in December to get by, officials said. Since the library is not a separate taxing body its tax levy and any loans have to be approved by the city.

“As soon as we start getting tax money, we would be able to go back to our normal operation,” Sorensen said.