I love the public library. No matter where I am living, even if it is only for a short time, I have to have a library card. I live literally a block away from a Barnes and Noble, but have only been there once in two years, and that was to buy a gift. I would much rather go to the library.
Part of it is definitely the cost. Books aren't cheap, and if you like to read, it's easy to spend a lot. If there are books that I really love, like the Harry Potter series, it's worth the money. But for something that I am just going to read once by the pool in probably a day or two - not worth it.
I have already read about 10 books this summer, and have a bunch on hold. I stopped in tonight to pick up one book, and decided to browse the cookbook section, one of my favorites. One of the great things about the public library is that they have pretty much every cookbook. Since I don't spend a whole lot of time cooking, I typically just look up recipes online when I get the urge to make something from scratch. But I do love to browse through cookbooks, and decided tonight would be a good night to look through some recipes. I really love Rachael Ray's cookbooks, and checked out four. I also checked out one book that is all soup recipes. One of my goals is to cook two or three soups, and then freeze them in single serving containers. I figure that this is a good plan for the school year, when I am eating a lot of late or hurried dinners. Plus I can take them to work for lunch - much better than a lean cuisine, and definitely cheaper.
I think what I like most about the library is that you can try things out for free without the commitment of cost. Last summer I checked out a bunch of knitting books (one of my favorite hobbies), but I didn't end up knitting anything at all. Had I bought a knitting book, I would have felt really bad if I didn't actually use it. A few summers ago, I put my Netflix subscription on hold, and just checked out movies from the library. They didn't have the best selection, but I watched a whole bunch of movies that I probably wouldn't have otherwise - for free. If I don't cook a single recipe over the next few weeks, no big deal.
The only thing I have to be careful about is returning the books on time and picking up my hold requests. I have been known to rack up $30 in fees - oops.
I'm surprised that more people don't use the public library, especially with the economy the way that it is. Reading is a great free hobby (unless you can actually afford a Kindle).