For many people, this is what a library is – a publicly funded
institution that provides books for loan and is used mainly by the
very old and the very young. It is probably divided into Lending and
Reference, and the Lending stock is split between fiction and
non-fiction. The threat to the public library comes partly from the
fact that fewer people now read for pleasure, and those who do are
more likely to buy their books from Borders or Waterstones than borrow
them from the library, and, on the non-fiction and reference sides,
information is easily and quickly obtainable from the WWW, without the
need to make a trip to the library.
However, public libraries provide much more than that, such as
materials for entertainment and information in a wide range of media.
You will also find a lot of information about local services across
the spectrum, tailored to the needs of the community served by the
library. Above all, you will find professional librarians who are
trained to help you find exactly what you are looking for. This
includes help with searching the Internet, which you can do from most
public libraries these days.