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Checking Out the Future of the Library

Wasn't so long ago that the Dallas Public Library system appeared to be on life support, a victim of yet another round of city budget cuts. But at City Hall yesterday, during the council's Quality of Life Committee meeting, Interim Director of Libraries Corrine Hill insisted: Quite the contrary. Said Hill, the libraries -- both the central location downtown and the branches -- are upping usage and access; per her PowerPoint presentation, more than 10 million items were checked out during the last fiscal year -- a significant bump from FY '06-'07's 7,465,712 check-outs. Items are also getting thumbed through more often. It jibes with national trends: When the economy took a nosedive, folks stopped shopping and started borrowing. Ask Borders.

Hill then proceeded to outline further changes on the way, chief among them an app that will allow users to browse catalogs and read and write reviews from their mobile Mac devices. (Nothing for Droid users at the moment, so sorry.) That follows last May's launch of DPL's entry into the digital download business. The library wants to even let you pay fines using your smartphone.

Which doesn't mean DPL wants to tear down the brick-and-mortars: Most of the changes discussed are intended make the library more accessible -- including the new Children's Center scheduled to open next month and a planned redo of the J. Erik Jonsson that will turn the first floor, at least, into "an urban space designed to support downtown residents and business." Meaning: a cafe-coffee shop, just maybe, not unlike the one being discussed for Dallas City Hall. Perhaps Carolyn Davis can get her Starbucks after all?

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