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Libraries feel boom from bust economy

Entertainment does not always have to cost a fortune, and depending on where you look, it can even be free.

As thousands of Americans brace themselves for what economists are calling the worst economic slump in more than two decades, neighborhood libraries have become a hot-spot for free entertainment, allowing patrons to check out whatever they would like for free -- unless it comes back past the due date.

In the past few years, library offerings have moved beyond just books, with DVDs gaining popularity and giving video rental chains a run for their money. And although mail rental services like Netflix have been a popular choice in recent years, with unemployment soaring and the cost of living increasing on a daily basis, what was once a luxury -- having movies mailed directly to the house at the cost of about $40 per month -- is simply unfeasible now.

Still, some find opportunity in these tough times.

Particularly the libraries.

The William K. Sanford Town Library celebrated its 700,000th circulated material this year last month, commemorating the event with a party for the children who attend the library and a cake-cutting ceremony with Colonie Town Supervisor Paula Mahan.

When I started, back in 1984, I remember a board member saying, 'You can have a mezzanine if you have over 400,000 [books], said Library Director Richard Naylor. "Indeed it did go over 400,000, and we do have a mezzanine."

Naylor said that the library has about 200,000 items, including audio materials, DVDs and books. The 700,000 mark represents the number of times something was taken out of the library and returned this year.

"We're talking about usage," said Naylor.

Naylor said, in general, the usage has gone up every year, with the exception of 2002, when the library underwent a renovation.

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