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Data supports area libraries’ needs

Profile image for By John D. Harden / Staff Writer
By John D. Harden / Staff Writer

Texas libraries continue to grow, surviving an economic downturn, city budget cuts and the growth of mobile devices, according to the most recent data from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Libraries in Denton County are following the same growth trend and some have requested additional room, renovations and staffing additions, area officials said.

In Krum, voters approved $1.3 million in tax bonds for a 12,000-square-foot library. Donna Pierce, Krum’s library director, said the library has outgrown its current 2,400-square-foot building.

She said more children and adults are visiting the library and there’s little room to maneuver through the building. She also said that she regularly has to remove books from the shelves because of the lack of room.

“People come in for more than just books,” she said. “It’s a social setting, and we have reading programs that parents love to sign their kids up for.”

Pierce said she attributes the growth of the library to the population growth of the county and parents who seek to keep their children involved in reading programs.

The area libraries also provide computer and Internet access for free, and they provide educational programs for adults, children and the elderly.

In Sanger, officials have proposed increasing the library’s budget and expanding its staff to hopefully provide additional programs for patrons.

Despite the growth of libraries, commercial book stores across the state and country have struggled and some have gone bankrupt.

Officials with Barnes & Noble Inc., one of the nation’s largest bookstore chains, announced earlier this year that it would likely close between 450 and 500 stores within the next 10 years.

The company says the influx of ebook readers, tablets and other devices have led to its shrinking retail presence, according to the business website.

According to local officials, mobile devices don’t seem to be a problem. In fact, some libraries are working to introduce an online component to complement their services.

The Lake Cities Library has experienced growth in the last four years, according to a recent report.

“We have people who’ve been coming to the library for years,” said Bill Knox, a Lake Cities Library board member. “We want to make sure we plan for more space while we can.”

Earlier this year, staff members from the Lake Cities Library gave a presentation to the Corinth City Council in an attempt to request additional funding.

The library, which is funded by Corinth, Lake Dallas, Shady Shores and Hickory Creek, is also trying to get each city to invest in a bigger building. The library had about 7,000 library card holders in 2009, and today, there are nearly 11,000 patrons with library cards, the report stated.

According to state data, many cities decided to reduce library funding during the economic downturn in 2008.

Since then, funding has rebounded slightly. But according to many officials in some of the area cities, budgets are still lean, with little room for extra investments.

During a Corinth City Council meeting in June, council member Randy Gibbons said the city’s budget has improved, but it’s important to invest wisely.

“Right now, everyone is requesting more money, like police, parks and public works,” he said. “We have to prioritize.”

Some residents are in favor of investing more into libraries because they say libraries meet a community need.

“I don’t have a problem with cities putting more into our libraries. That’s what they should do,” said Lake Dallas resident Cathy Shipp. “The last thing that we need is to cut funding for our libraries. Kids need more than video games and movies. They need books.”

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.