MONROE-The case for more space at the Monroe Free Library can be found in the following statistics: The number of books people borrowed from the 5,500-square foot library on Millpond Parkway increased from 112,391 in 2000 to 197,011 in 2003. That's an increase of nearly 76 percent, according to the reports the library sends to the state. During that same three-year span, circulation at the Goshen library was up 15 percent and down by one tenth of a percent in Warwick, two communities with comparable populations to Monroe if you exclude the village of Kiryas Joel. The numbers are important as residents consider a $13.8 million building that would combine the library and town offices on the Orange & Rockland Utilities Inc. property on Route 208. The library would occupy two-thirds of the 24,448-square foot building. Circulation is the number of books and other items borrowed and "is always the benchmark," said library director Marilyn McIntosh. "We also have to realize that sometimes people use the library for other things and they don't take anything out." But why do residents still use the library? With the convenience of the Internet, aren't books a thing of the past? "It's just like they said when computers came out; they said we wouldn't need paper," McIntosh said. "It (the Internet) is great, but it's nota complete resource. There is nothing like a book for in depth information," The library also started a new DVD and music collection. In addition to providing space for the increasing numbers of patrons, the new building also would allow the library to further expand its materials. At present 59,495 materials are maintained, excluding information files, but including 52,639 books. "This should at least double," McIntosh said. In addition to the focus on expanding materials, library representatives have continued to encourage dialogue from the community regarding the new facility, regardless of its future location. A number of residents participated in focus groups and their input was used to help develop long-range plans. "Each of the three groups came up with the same number one role for the library, which was to become the commons'," McIntosh said. Many participants also felt that it was important for the library to have designated space where people could sit, study or simply relax." A number of expansions and changes are under consideration. Although the following list is not all inclusive, a new library would: Put books on CD, and expand books on tape. Add Leap Pad. Add a Spanish collection. Increase the number of copies of popular books. Provide designated space for young adults. Expand story-time. Provide programs, crafts and speakers in a classroom setting. Become a cultural resource. Expand current operating hours. Excess money from the building fund is ear marked for collections, and these changes would impact the library's operating budget. "The budget will increase, but exactly how much we don't know," McIntosh said. The current operating budget, excluding the building fund, is $714,186. Residents pay two dollars per $1,000 of their assessed home value. The proposed 2005 operating budget is more than $900,000. If the combination library and town hall proposal passes, the library intends to lease the space from the town for 99 years, at $1 per year. The building referendum is scheduled for March 15, 2005, but McIntosh was unclear if this date needed approval from the town board. The projected cost of the new facility is $13.8 million, which would increase taxes by $12 per month, or $144 per year, on a home with a market value of $250,000. Residents may incur additional taxes from the library connecting to the sewer with a pump station and if Kiryas Joel is approved to build its own library. We don't know how this will turn out," McIntosh stated, "We want to build a library that is a fiscally responsible project. We are open to anything that will bring us to that end."