This recent article in the Boston Globe debunks the idea that the dawn of the internet would be the demise of public libraries.
"Library directors remember the talk, not long ago, of technology rendering libraries obsolete. But statistics show that the opposite has occurred.
Over the past decade, library circulation has climbed, driven partly by demand for audiovisual materials and enabled by the Internet, which has allowed patrons to easily scan catalogs from home and request interlibrary loans with a few mouse clicks."
So, it turns out that for many libraries the change the internet brought about was not fewer users, but different kinds of library usage. More interlibrary loans, more database and other online services and content being offered 24/7. The new virtual library is open around the clock and provides information through the internet. It also turns out, and the Globe article does not go into this, that patrons need as much assistance from librarians now as back in pre-automated days. Help with computers, the automated catalog, the downloadable books and other online content demand librarians' times and cannot be solved by "googling."