There’s been a lot of buzz lately about a new proposal for a bookless library outside of San Antonio, Texas. Bexar County was considering creating their own library system which would be independent of San Antonio Public Library, and one local resident and activist was agitating for branch libraries which would be book free.
This is a story I read about last week but didn’t write about because I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. When the original story broke, the Bexar County commissioners had not yet accepted the proposal, so at that point it was really not much more than a wild idea. It would have been a little silly to talk the wonders of the world’s first bookless public library and then not have it come to pas,s so I waited.
Last night this proposal came before the Bexar County Commissioners Court where it was approved. The project is due to launch by the end of the summer and cost $1.5 million. The first bookless branch of the BiblioTech Library system, as it is going to be called, is set to open at a county office building in the suburbs of San Antonio. It will have 10,000 digital titles as well as ereader which can be checked out, computers, study areas and meeting rooms.
In point of fact, this is not the world’s first bookless library. Any number of universities have bookless libraries for their students. The idea has also been considered a couple times before by public libraries. Newport Beach, Calif. considered converting a branch library to a bookless setup but scuttled the plans after a public outcry.Tucson-Pima Public Library System in Arizona actually opened a small bookless branch in 2002 only to add books about five years ago.In any case, Bexar County sees this first branch as a prototype for the system; they have yet to decide to launch a county wide bookless library system and I don’t expect them to do so.
Libraries provide many more services than acting as a warehouse for books but that doesn’t mean you can get rid of them entirely. Books are still important, and given the hostility that the major publishers feel towards library ebooks it is simply not practical to give up on physical books. That would cut a library off from far too much popular content.