Libraries nationwide are facing cutbacks and shutdowns. Like those in Middletown, most are also facing a Catch 22: the stagnant economy blew a hole in their budgets. At the same time, as people look for low-cost access to information and entertainment, it has also boosted their demand.

Essentially, libraries are closing down just when their communities need them the most.

According to a 2010 study from the Online Computer Library Center, 81 percent of Americans who have been “economically impacted” by the recession have a library card, compared to 68 percent who have not.

“Lots of libraries provide income-tax assistance, financial literacy, and reading literacy. They are helping people solve their problems in their daily lives as well as providing resources at no cost,” says Susan Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.