NPR reported two weeks ago on this interesting phenomenon - more and more people are finding, either for the first time or back after many years of absence, the great advantage of libraries: access to books, newspapers, magazines and cultural activities for both adults and kids, and it's all for free.
According to the NPR story, librarians all over the country report that many people are checking out books rather than buying them. Libraries are also reporting on significant growth in the usage of many of their (free) services, such as computers, magazines, newspapers, etc.
From my own experience with the library in Newark, DE, I can't really say whether it's also true here or not - the library, which I go to in the last couple of years, always seems busy to me and the parking lot is full most of the times.
By the way, and this important point is also true here in Newark, a big advantage of many libraries is their accessibility. Many of the libraries are within a walking distance or next to a bus station and don't require a long and expensive travel with a car to get there.
My hope is that even when the economy will get back on its feet, people will keep going to libraries and find out that libraries have a great value on both difficult and easy times. There's an important place in our communities and cultural life for both bookstores and libraries and I hope both will thrive and provide us with access to these little treasures called books!
Raz @ Eco-Libris