In some ways it's unfortunate that the first thing that pops into many people's head when they hear "library" is public library. It's a very limited view of the breadth and scope of librarianship. However, in some ways it's a great thing that people are aware of public libraries because public libraries are AWESOME! One of my favorite activities as a child and adolescent was going to my local public library (weekly. sometimes more than that). I've seen the library from all sides and one of the first things I do when I move to a new town is get my library card. Why? you ask....
1. Value. Public libraries are one of the most cost efficient tax-funded entities. Even in areas with well-funded public libraries, the amount of materials, expertise, and resources you get for that tiny fraction of your tax dollars is incredible! It's different everywhere, but in one county I worked in, the library had estimated that each taxpayer's yearly contribution to the library system was around $30 per year.
2. Literacy. Public libraries say "this community cares about literacy and education." And that's the kind of community I want to live in.
3. Opportunity. Public libraries give people a chance to better themselves. With a little effort, you can access resources that can help you improve your knowledge and skills. It's one reason why when Andrew Carnegie started donating money he chose to build libraries. Information in the hands of anyone who has a desire to learn. Capitalism in disguise.
4. Community and librarians. Okay, this is a two-for-one. First, librarians are awesome and if they don't have the answer to your question, they are usually pretty skilled at helping you find it. Second, librarians use their libraries to help build community. Whether it's through programs, activities, or even just talking about books, public libraries and librarians can be a place to connect with people who like the same stuff you do.
6. Books. You were waiting for this one, right? Where else can I go feed my addiction so easily? Whether it's the exact book I was looking for, or a new author I found just browsing the shelves, there's so much to read and so little time!