I grew up in a small town with no bookstores. In fact most of the time I lived there we didn't even have a WalMart. So, there were literally no places to buy books. Going to St. Louis or Springfield (MO) were a huge deal and boy did I look forward to book shopping. But because of where I grew up, I used the library a lot. I read every Zane Grey novel they had (bought a bunch directly from the publisher too through the little form inside the back cover), read and re-read A Little Princess, and just wandered the stacks looking for new fun books to discover.
It was all I had.
Now, however things have changed. You can buy books new and used in a wide variety of formats and everywhere from the grocer to online. Books are a lot easier to come by, but I still use the library, just not the same way.
As I said, when I was younger, the library was where I discovered things. It was magical. I would just walk around and see what jumped out at me. Now, instead of window shopping I tend to know exactly what I want. In fact, frequently I reserve whatever I am looking for online and just stop by to pick it up. I do a little window shopping while my kids are looking for videos, but I don't do a lot on my own.
Also, what I get from the library has changed. Used to it was anything they had because well, there weren't other choices, but now it tends to be things I don't want to buy new--either came out in hardback first (or only); is an author I am close to giving up on, but not quite yet to; or a new to me author who I saw somewhere and want to try. If it is an author I know I love (and she hasn't gone to hardback, because I just don't buy many hardbacks and I hate waiting to read something everyone else is already reading) I'll buy new. And so far as wandering and discovering, I go to a bookstore--new or used.
So, why have libraries lost the magic of discovery for me? I think they could still have that magic, but they don't buy as many paperback originals as other books or if they do they aren't as loved. In the library closest to my house the paperbacks are really spread out in kind of left over space, and at others the selection is poor. There is one library here that has spinning displays for their paperbacks, however, that I love. I used to "discover" great books there all the time, but now I don't live as close.
So, how about you? Do you still use the library? How is it different from how you used to? Do you use it to window shop? Or just pick up the things you know you want to read?