Those of us with our heads firmly lodged in the swirling surreality of the Internet may be somewhat surprised to hear that public libraries—those shadowy old fortresses where information is still preserved on pieces of paper bound into quaint objects called books—remain vitally important to millions of New Yorkers. In an eye-opening video that shows a day in the life of various NYC public library branches, filmmakers Julie Dressner and Jesse Hicks show just how necessary these public institutions are today.

Elaborating on the genesis of their beautifully-shot short film, Dressner writes:

When we saw a crowd of hundreds waiting for the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library to open at 1 PM on a Sunday, we wondered why the library wasn’t open earlier. We were then surprised to learn that of the city’s 211 libraries, only 8 are open at all on Sundays.This is because, although library usage has increased over the last decade, city funding and hours have been scaled back. When we heard that attendance at the libraries’ free programs had jumped 88 percent in the last decade—to 2.5 million—we wanted to see what all those New Yorkers were doing. In branch after branch, over the course of making the film, we saw how the libraries have evolved into community centers, providing a whole array of services and programs that are stitching together critical holes in the city's safety net.

Here's the video: