You must be too young to remember telephone books. They had a blue section that listed all the government agencies, departments, phone numbers and addresses. A new book came out every year and it was free from the telephone company for all of their customers, but you could go to the library and use the phone book there if you needed to, as well as all pay phones had a phone book chained to the phone, (sometimes those were stolen or vandalized). The libraries have lending privileges with all other libraries so if your local library did not have books on the subject you were interested in you could ask the librarian to do a search at other libraries and they could get the book or books you needed. The university libraries allow non-students to use their resources as well, except I don't think you can check the books out if you are not a student. When I wanted to find a book I would go to the library and look for the author or subject, when I was feeling rich I would go to the bookstore.