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Libraries in Calgary are seeing record traffic.
Ali Obad/the Gauntlet

Go read, it's what all the cool kids are doing

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The new popular place to be in Calgary is not some posh restaurant or cool nightclub. It isn't even a place that was ever meant to be trendy. It is your local neighbourhood and campus library.

The Calgary Public Library boasted record usage in 2008, with over 15 million books, CDs, and DVDs borrowed-- up 1.1 million from 2007. The Calgary Library is confident this is due to the current economic situation leading people to search for a great deal on their personal and recreational needs. With no end in sight for the economic downturn, the public library usage numbers are expected to increase further in 2009.

For $12 annually, the Calgary Public Library card provides unlimited access to books, CDs, DVDs, computers and wireless internet for users. CPL also has career-building programs that assist with interviewing and resume creation.

The library plays a key role in the lives of Calgarians, library director Gerry Meek said.

"With e-mail and Internet access, Wi-Fi web browsing, online resources and free programs for adults and children, you get a sense of the importance of the library to the vitality of our community-- especially in a shaky economy," said Meek. "Even something as simple as being able to search the job ads can make a world of difference to someone."

At the University of Calgary, library usage numbers are expected to rise, but for a different reason. With the looming decrease in jobs, people are choosing to stay in school longer or return to school in order to build on their education and career skills. Robert Tiessen, head of access services at the U of C, said this leads to an increase in the usage of the U of C library.

This is a cause of concern for communication studies third-year student Jill Angelstad, who said there is already a lack of study space for students at the MacKimmie Library.

"The MacKimmie Library is the most awfully structured facility in terms of accommodating students who need a place to sit and perform their research," said Angelstad. "In fact, every year it seems as though the university takes away several desks and chairs in the library, making finding a space into a musical chairs event."

The Taylor Family Library will be adding to the amount of student study space on campus, but there are no short-term solutions planned.

The city library is taking steps to accommodate the increased usage numbers. A new online catalogue and borrowing system is being installed this month. Plans are also being made to open new branches throughout the city and expand some of the existing ones.

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