Budget cuts force libraries to re-examine roles

Plunging tax revenue is forcing libraries across the country to close and cut staff, while e-readers and the Internet can make a library seem quaint as a place to find a book or do research.

Yet amid severe cutbacks, libraries are finding novel ways to generate money and are rebranding themselves as employment resources for people without computers and as community gathering places that cannot be easily replaced.

Library directors are responding to slimmer budgets by charging for premium services, selling passport photos and joining with DVD retailers to offer commercial movie-rental boxes in exchange for a cut of the sales.

On Thursday, the American Library Association meets in New Orleans and will address the funding crisis and various ways to maintain services at a time of plunging tax revenue.