A bookless library? A librarian’s worst nightmare? Many years ago, the mere thought of a library without any physical books would’ve been unthinkable, however in this day and age it is actually something quite reasonable and for Bexar County in Texas, it could soon be a reality.
In a recent article written by the San Antonio Express News, Bexar County judge Nelson Wolff shared the proposed plans to launch the very first bookless library system to a county that lacks a library system all together.[i] Up to this point, Bexar County had been paying the San Antonio County $3.7 million a year so that its residents could use San Antonio’s library resources, but this year they would have to pay $6.7 million. Faced with such a costly situation, Wolff set out to find the most efficient way to create a library system for his residents. In the article, Wolff is quoted, “We wanted to find a low-cost, effective way to bring reading and learning to the county and also focus on the change in the world of technology.”
For a county in such dire financial circumstances, this proposition is incredibly promising. The proposal revolves around creating a library specifically for the digital age as opposed to simply adapting an existing library. Despite the existence of bookless libraries,“BiblioTech” as it will be named, will the first of its kind in the United States as a county-wide system. Bibliotech will have no print legacy and will be the first to be entirely bookless from the very start. Having a prototype location in San Antonio Texas it will be offering its patrons the ability to check out books through their own e-readers, and if needed can even borrow one of their library’s 150 e-readers.
In the past there have been other attempts to create bookless libraries, but something has never worked quite right. In one example the public didn’t have enough computer access to successfully use the library, and in another case the public was simply against it. In 2002, Tucson-Pima Public Library in Arizona opened a branch that was planned to offer only e-books, but due to community demand the library soon began stocking printed text as well. In 2011, Newport Beach considered closing its city’s library and replacing it with a community center-like branch where people could visit and read, but not where physical books would be found. Due to community outcry, the plan was scrapped. In Bexar’s case, the community welcomes and supports the bookless proposal. Instead of reacting with doubt and fear, community members are looking forward to how their library system will be set up and what resources will be available to them. Residents are ready to be involved in the development of an incredibly modern library system and are excited to see how they will benefit from this new way of interacting with text.
Times have changed, libraries are evolving and traditional ideals of what a library should be are changing. Perhaps, the world isn’t ready for all libraries to be bookless,but just as there are different community needs, there should also be appropriate libraries to suit those needs. It will be interesting to watch Bexar County’s bookless public library system evolve over the years.
[i] Gonzalez, John W. “Bexar Set To Turn the Page on Idea Of Books In Libraries.” My San Antonio. January 11, 2013. http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Bexar-set-to-turn-the-page-on-idea-of-books-in-4184940.php#photo-4012897