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McAllen's new library brings patrons back to the stacks
[January 15, 2012]

McAllen's new library brings patrons back to the stacks

MCALLEN, Jan 15, 2012 (The Monitor - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- By the numbers, December was an exceptional month for McAllen's new library.

Data gathered by the library's computer system showed 47,176 visitors in December, when the new building at 4001 N. 23rd Street opened to the public on Dec. 10. Another 1,684 people registered for library cards and 8,072 people updated their accounts, up from 110 library card registrations and 632 account updates last December, when the library was open for a full month.

When Library Director Jose Gamez first saw the eye-popping statistics, his immediate instinct was to double-check them, just in case.

"Then my next thought was, 'Well, that definitely proves on paper how busy we've been the first month,'" Gamez said. "And third, it shows the investment the city made was the right choice, because the public has responded so well to the new building. They're making use of the entire facility. There isn't a space that's not being used, and there isn't a service that hasn't been taken advantage of." The new library has proved so popular that technical employees who work behind the scenes have been asked to help out at the front desk and lines -- infrequent at the old library at 601 N. Main Street -- have become a common sight.

To cope, Gamez said the library is now seeking to fill five part-time positions that had been unneeded at the old building.

The McAllen library's early success comes at a challenging time for libraries nationwide, which have been hard-hit by municipal budget cuts and questions about their purpose in the Internet age.

"Books still are our main product," Gamez said. "They always have been, but we don't know how long it'll continue to be that way." Patrons like Susana Aguilar, 22, and Alberto Juarez, 25, both South Texas College students who live in McAllen, demonstrate the shift. They visited the library Saturday to study for an exam -- bringing books, binders and a laptop.

"We do have our own laptops and our own Internet, but it's very different coming here than studying at home," Aguilar said, adding that she doesn't have a library card yet, but intends to register once the lines subside.

The library's modern design and impressive size -- it used to be a Walmart -- make it an attractive destination, Juarez said.

"They invested well," Juarez said. "It's not just the younger crowd, either. You see a lot of people." -- Dave Hendricks covers McAllen and general assignments for The Monitor. He can be reached at and (956) 683-4452.

___ (c)2012 The Monitor (McAllen, Texas) Visit The Monitor (McAllen, Texas) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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