Even funding cuts can't keep the library down.
The New York Public Library has seen a spike of 40 percent in program attendance and a nearly 60 percent increase in circulation over the last decade, despite an 8 percent cut in city funding, according to a recent report from the Center for an Urban Future.
"No other institution, public or private, does a better job of reaching people who have been left behind in today's economy, have failed to reach their potential in the city's public school system or who simply need help navigating an increasingly complex world," the report said.
In the past year alone, attendance at the NYPL jumped more than 700,000 to a record 18,211,405, the library said, which could be attributed to increased programming, renovated branches, more tourism and new, higher-quality exhibitions, NYPL spokeswoman Angela Montefinise said.
"During fiscal year 2012, we had over 10,000 extra programs and we targeted them better . . . Our program attendance has swelled by more than 200,000 during that period," Montefinise said, adding that recent renovations at the branches "continued to attract more patrons than ever before."
NYPL president Tony Marx said the study showed that libraries "are an essential and incomparable part of the city's educational infrastructure."
"The free social and educational services that we provide are needed now more than ever and are critical to the success of our communities," Marx said.
Indeed, overall city library usage -- not only book lending, but other services -- has increased as library budgets decline. Computer sessions at libraries, for example, rose to 9.3 million from 5.8 million from 2007 to 2011, as funding dropped nearly $70 million over roughly the same period. Likewise, e-book checkouts rose nearly 179 percent, according to the Center for an Urban Future's study.
"I'm always in the library," Johns said. "When I come home after work I won't have anything to do, so I want to read, to learn. I also rent movies . . . [and use] the Internet," she said.
Francesca Camagni, 23, of midtown Manhattan, said, "I come here to study because I like the atmosphere. It's like Harry Potter in Hogwarts or something."
With Anna Sanders
The 10 most-circulated books in 2012 at the NYPL
2. "The Litigators" by John Grisham
3. "Mockingjay" by Suzanne Collins
4. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
5. "Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins
6. "Explosive Eighteen" by Janet Evanovich
7. "V is for Vengeance" by Sue Grafton
8. "The Drop" by Michael Connelly
9. "Zero Day" by David Baldacci
10. "Guilty Wives" by James Patterson