Recession Means Both Feast, Famine at Libraries

North Texas public libraries say more people are checking items out and using public computers, just as funding is down.

Cary Siegfried, director of Arlington Public Libraries, said circulation is up 20 percent as more people check out books, movies and music.

"In the history of this library, we have 136,000 people with library cards in the city," Siegfried said. "That's the highest we've ever seen."

He said Arlington libraries will check out 2 million books this year, more than ever before. Every branch has seen significant increases as people from all walks of life look for free ways to entertain themselves, Siegfried said.

But the increased traffic also means more waiting.

"Just as more people are coming in to use our collection, they're going to come in and find that what they want is checked out," Siegfried said.

Patrons at the Arlington Public Library off of Abrams Street waited up to an hour to get on a computer Tuesday.

Michelle Lillard waited for a computer to look for a job, "something that's going to actually pay the bills."

But the longer lines aren't keeping patrons away.

"It's hard for everyone right now," Robert Osei said. "Hopefully this recession will be over with, and everyone can start prospering like we're supposed to."

But even as more people turn to libraries, their funding is also on the decline. Cities are taking in less tax revenue that expected and cutting budgets, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported last week.

Arlington is expected to lose at least 10 percent of its budget for new books and magazines this year, according to the newspaper.

Budget cuts have already taken a toll on the hours of many Fort Worth libraries, the Star-Telegram reported.

Members of the Texas Library Association asked the Legislature this week for more funding to handle the increased demand.

"When the economy goes bad, public libraries are used even more, and that’s often when the public library budget is reduced," Lesly Smith, Haltom City’s library director, told the Star-Telegram. "It’s the opposite of what it should be."

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