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An expanded public library system will provide for neighborhoods outside Central Austin

The approval of a new strategic plan to expand and improve Austin’s public library system will provide library resources to neighborhoods outside of Central Austin.

AUSTIN, Texas — Public libraries do more than just provide books to the community. 

Teen Program Specialist Frida Garcia works on the music team lab, which lets teens come to the Austin Public Library and play music for free.

"We have them available for them at all times,” Garcia said. “Teens just get to come in here, play with the electric guitar, electric bass, pianos."

The six-story Austin Public Library located in Downtown Austin provides many more free resources to the community.

"Libraries, in many ways, are the most public space that exists,” said Baylor Johnson, public information and marketing program manager at the Austin Public Library. “There aren't very many places that people can go to a place and just exist and not be pressured to buy something.”

But the Austin Public Library said with all the population growth Austin has experienced in the past few years, public library spaces need to catch up.

"We've been starting to draw, to lag behind other large cities in terms of the amount of space that libraries have in our communities, which makes it harder to serve this growing and dynamic city,” Johnson said. 

The Austin City Council approved a new strategic plan on Thursday, which will include a new mission statement, vision statement and a facilities plan to improve library spaces across the city. 

"Although we about five and a half years ago opened this beautiful downtown central library, we haven't added any new branches in our neighborhoods in over two decades,” Johnson said.

The plan will include creating four larger library branches in areas outside Central Austin that are seeing the most growth.

"It would be incredible to get more people access to not only the books that we have available, but also just to get to know that libraries are there for them no matter if they live in the outskirts of the city,” Garcia said.

By expanding the city’s library spaces, the Austin Public Library will be able to provide more free programs like the music team lab.

"It's just redefining what libraries are for teens, which is great because we want to see them here,” Garcia said.

The Austin Public Library said the proposed projects would be supported by future bonds and would be completed in the next few years.

Boomtown is KVUE's series covering the explosive growth in Central Texas. For more Boomtown stories, head to KVUE.com/Boomtown.

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