I originally picked this up from Aaron Schmidt's Walking Paper. I don't know Aaron personally, but his blog was one of the first to be placed in my aggregator. He talked about gaming in libraries as an old idea. (Stay tuned for a post on my own library's Dance Dance Revolution program from this summer. I plan to go see it in person tomorrow.)
He pointed to a wonderful address/paper by the wonderfully named Miss Gratia Alta Countryman who, back in 1905 gave the opening address at the Minnesota Library Association called The Library as Social Centre.
It brought me back to the days when I was first a public library director of a library in a town of about 15,000. [That made it about the same size as the town I grew up in -- at the time I grew up.] I really identified with what was happening there, and the Library certainly was the social center of the town. That became even more clear to me in the late 1980s with the corporate downsizing in Fairfield (CT) and Westchester (NY) Counties, and many formerly high level executives set up consulting operations in the spare bedroom, or room over the garage. For many of these folks, their only human contact during the day was at the market, or coming to the Library.
Since then, that library has further solidified it role as the community center for the town, and the current library director does a spectacular job. They recently expanded the facility, and have huge levels of support in the community.