Cara Maurizi's daughter Elin is almost 7 with a serious book habit, multiple volumes of cat and dog books on every trip to the library.
Since Maurizi left the steady paycheck of teaching to become an actress, the Urbana mother has been spending less time in book stores and more in libraries. Usually it's the Urbana Free Library, but the family also enjoys Champaign's spanking-new facility, and that's where they were Friday.
Sharron Coeurvie of Champaign says she's a "big time" library user, in part because the economy's not so hot, and also because she enjoys the sense of community at the Champaign Public Library.
She's a social activist who is trying to avoid the materialism in American culture. "We don't need to own everything," she said.
But she does have to clean her apartment this weekend, so she has a stack of Eric Clapton and George Harrison CDs from the library.
And Mark Brandyberry of Champaign is checking out audio books.
"You can page through a book before you buy it," he said. "But you can't do that with a $50 audio book."
Librarians in Champaign and Danville say that in recent months they're seeing more consumers making use of the services their tax dollars support.
Marsha Grove, the executive director of the Champaign Public Library said there's a 30 percent increase in circulation from the year before at her library.
But she said there was no way to quantify how much of that has to do with less disposable income, since the new building and new services may be the dominant factor.
Also, since the library building came in under budget, Champaign was able to use some of that money to buy more books and recordings.
"The city allowed us to buy 60,000 items from that fund," Grove said.
"We have over 355,000 items to lend out; last year the figure was 264,000."
In Danville, audio-visual materials director Mike Boedicker said he has seen large increases in digital recordings going out.
"The main thing we've noticed is a big increase in audio book circulation," he said, along with smaller increases in DVDs and music CDs.
The rise in library use may reflect a nationwide trend in the digital entertainment industry, where rentals have recently performed better than sales.
Sean Bersell, a spokesman for the Entertainment Merchant Association, said overall video sales are essentially flat for the first half of 2008, but there has been about a 1 percent uptick in rentals.
"Consumers may be switching, not buying as many but renting even more," he said.