Which isn't to say that libraries haven't been adapting to the new digital reality, just as they have adapted to a bumpy track record of government support for libraries in recent years.
The Pew study shows libraries have little choice. It reports that patrons place nearly equal value on free library computer access as they do on borrowing a book. Those books may not be bound between covers, either, leading to new financial pressures to increase e-book holdings and even offer e-readers for patrons to check out.
To their credit, libraries are seen as having "reinvented themselves to become technology hubs" in recent decades, according to Pew. That's critical in urban areas like Philadelphia, where so many low-income residents still look to library Internet access as their only realistic bridge across the digital divide.
From libraries' perspective, the digital trend presents them with a challenge to meet their patrons' traditional and evolving demands. That's a process calling for experimentation, and promising inevitable missteps.
Will the plan to launch an all-digital and e-reader library in San Antonio, Texas, for instance, prove to be a cutting-edge trend or an overreach?
A more measured way for libraries to adapt may not involve dismantling the stacks so much as adding services. That often means more computers, but many libraries are expanding by providing more classes in various technology interests.
The good news is that libraries - judging from the Pew findings, as well as a recent federal review that found library visitation up by nearly one-third over a decade - can work on their digital futures while relatively secure that their bricks-and-mortar sites will remain important assets worthy of strong community support.