Excuse Me, Your Library Table Is Ready

"Libraries have definitely become community gathering places."

Whether it's a kid playing a game or researching a homework assignment or even an adult looking for a job, the 22 computer terminals at McKinney's library stay full through the afternoon and early evening most nights requiring the library to start issuing restaurant style pagers, the kind that vibrate and light up to alert library patrons when a computer is free.

If you're one of those people that thought the age of the Internet would mean the demise of public libraries, you wouldn't be alone but you would be wrong.

In fact in this economy, the use of techonolgy has only increased the value of public libraries to the communities they serve.

"This year we've seen people falling on hard times coming to the library for support for help," said Beth Scudder, Director of McKinney's public library.

Free computer use is the biggest draw to libraries.

"There's the wisdom out there that everyone has a computer," said Scudder. "But really they don't." 

Speaking of free, that's another big draw to public libraries the fact that memberships, books and DVD's are free.

"They have the classics but they also have up to date DVD's, it's comparable to blockbuster," said Art Teacher, Janine Allen. The one big difference again, the library is FREE!

Things that do cost are only a fraction of what you might pay for them elsewhere. 

Kerri Stiles, an education student, has a home computer. Stiles also has a husband and kids, for her the library represents some quiet study time with some low-cost benefits.

"I needed to print something," said Stiles. "Rather than spending $60 on a printing cartridge I decided to come here and just print a few pages for 15 cents."

McKinney is currently building a second library on the city's westside to better serve it's citizens. Scudder says the diversity of library patrons and it's day-to-day necessity in their lives has given new purpose to public library systems across North Texas. 

Libraries may lack the trendy swagger of MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, but they are the foundation of where social networking orginates and in the current economy, Scudder says their usefullness can't be understated.

"Libraries have definitely become community gathering places,"  Scudder said.

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