This past weekend's book sale by the Friends of the Barrington Area Library was the last one until the library's planned $5 million renovation is completed in 2014, and perhaps the final one altogether as the library and the all-volunteer organization work out future plans.
The library's preliminary architectural plans for the renovation don't include storage space for the thousands of donated books that are featured in book sales, Friends board member Sue Allman said. Current plans call for that storage space to be converted into handicap-accessible bathrooms.
"We're telling people that this is the last book sale because that is what we're hearing," Allman said. "People stand there with their mouths open. They just can't believe it."
But library officials weren't as categorical, pointing out that the architectural drawings are still a work in progress.
"Everyone at the library is tremendously grateful for the Friends' hard work and generosity," Karen McBride, public information manager for the library, wrote via email. "Our primary concern right now is to plan for a library building that is efficient, user-friendly and offers more to our community than ever before, while remaining fiscally reasonable and appropriate. Once we feel the plans for the new public space are exactly what they need to be, we'll have opportunities to re-imagine all the other activities and services that go on in that space."
Board member Barbara Pintozzi agreed. "If the Friends came to us and said, 'We really need storage space, we really need it,' we could get them storage space," she said. "The Friends are so important to the library."
The real problem, Pintozzi said, is the Friends' dwindling and aging volunteers, who can't handle book sales as well as they used to.
"A lot of them spend winters somewhere warm. Many of them can't do the physical work, lifting boxes of books. They need more members to carry the load, but the problem is, younger people aren't volunteering," she said.
Friends Vice President Wayne Tegeder agreed the organization's core volunteer group is getting older and less healthy.
"We're all unfortunately getting into our 70s, 80s and 90s," he said. "I hate to say this, but we're running out of gas."
The book sales -- offering everything from children's books to autographed and rare books -- typically take place in February, June and October. Past book sales have yielded about $12,000 to $14,000 each, all of which goes to the library, but this year's wasn't expected to hit much more than $8,000, Tegeder said.
Since the organization was first formed in 1956, it has benefited the library with all kinds of donations including a microwave, computers, technological equipment and a van, he said.
Tegeder is among those who believe the Friends would fulfill its mission of serving the library even without book sales. Nowadays it's just very hard to get people to volunteer, he said.
But others, like Allman, believe it would be terrible to never have a book sale again.
"There are so many people who depend on this. Teachers who come here to get books for class -- that's what I did for years," said Allman, a former teacher in Schaumburg School District 54. Most leftovers from the book sales go to churches and charitable organizations, and some are kept for future sales.
Patrons said they were sad to hear this weekend's book sale could be the last.
Fourteen-year-old Caroline Ordway, of Barrington, said she's been buying books at the sale for the several years.
"I buy books for baby-sitting. It's fun to be able to bring books for the kids; they enjoy it," she said. "If this is the last one, that's kind of a disappointment."
Elgin resident Ned Lindquist said that he's attended many book sales at the Barrington library over the years. He always hunts for books that can be included in children's libraries for relatives and for church members who are about to become parents, he said.
"They have a great selection, and the books are always in good shape," he said. "It would be very sad if it ended."