Texas county to open "library without books"

Bexar County, Texas, is set to launch a huge project they're calling "BiblioTech".

... the BiblioTech library will have 100 e-readers for loan, and an initial selection of 10,000 digital titles. The library itself will have a host of computer stations where patrons can study, use the Internet, and learn computer skills.

Meanwhile, readers at home can check out e-books without leaving the couch. It's estimated that the library's services will reach about 1.7 million people in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio. The BiblioTech project is designed to supplement the existing city library system.

We've heard of "virtual" libraries before, but what I find interesting about this is the emphasis on e-readers for loan, not just computer terminals or digital holdings. However, I have to wonder how 100 e-readers are meant to serve a population of 1.7 million. I assume that's just a starting point, but I'm fascinated to see how this model develops and what it will mean for other public libraries and managing digital readership.

Edited to add - "Anonymous" in the comments below is absolutely right to call me out on using "without books" when I meant "paperless." --Amy



I hate it when these branches open up that people are ignorant enough to say they are "without books". Considering that more books are available in some cases electronically via the ereaders, these are "paperless" libraries, not bookless.

With out physical books.... It is a title designed to draw you in. A library without books is just a room. Settle down.

It seems the Mainstream Media is recycling library-land stories. Birdie already posted about this five months ago: http://lisnews.org/the_first_bookless_library

I hadn't seen the original story - so it's good news/bad news that the mainstream media has done some recycling.

are we going to start lending CD players so people can borrow audiobooks without having to invest in a machine for them? I just don't get why we think we need to provide the machine to read e-books on....

Not everyone can afford an e-reader and I think libraries have a duty to narrow the digital divide. Maybe they SHOULD lend CD players, or mp3 players rather, along with a lot of other technology that not everyone has access to (some libraries now provide 3-D printing...).
Sure, budgets limit how much of that can be done. However, if more libraries began to focus exclusively on technology, maybe the mainstream would stop viewing us as outdated institutions that are no longer relevant. Maybe they would see us as the vital and innovative democratic institutions that we can be. And just maybe our public officials would be more willing to invest more tax dollars in us.

Can you afford to offer the actual equipment?
Is it enough to offer a service and see how many use it without any additional 'help' from the library.

I mean I know it's nice to be able to offer equipment but libraries have always offered audio books, cd's, records, cassettes, VHS and now dvd's, blu-rays and even games. All without offering the equipment required to use them. And indeed charging people for their use.

You can't assume everyone you are providing for has the means but then you can't please all the people all the time, just some of the people some of the time.
Knowing that they can get something from the library for free (in the case of ebooks) might be the reason someone actually gets an e-reader as they know it won't incur additional costs?

There are always news stories about book-less libraries. What are not reported is when they have to actually go back to the paper book model if the experiment fails.

An all-electronic library at Monterrey college was widely reported in the 1990s, but less reported was when they had to supply actual paper books to the students within a few years.

Also not mentioned, or explored, is why so many all-electronic resource libraries fail. A good master's thesis project, though!

If I were doing an MLS I'd pursue it!

Monterrey is a city in Mexico.

You're probably thinking of Cal State Monterey Bay (the bay has a single R in Monterey, as does the city of Monterey).

It did indeed open in 1995 without a traditional library, and opened a (wholly inadequate) library some years later--and now has a beautiful 2008-opened "hybrid library." One reasonable article on that situation: http://eresearchlibrary.wordpress.com/2009/04/20/what-is-a-library-now-csu-monterey-bay-open...

GVSU's new library has a gorgeous interior, but most of the books are filed away and retrieved by robots or something. Like an automated version of The Name of the Rose. What if robots start getting de-electrified?

Honestly, I expect all libraries to be like this within my lifetime (or at least a hybrid) - but I'm optimistic and 28 years old. Eventually, I think the lending of eReaders will be more common than the lending of paper books.

My ideal library would be the hybrid model. In fact, that's essentially how I have my home "library" set up, and since I'm very interested in both technology and libraries, I eventually plan to work with the hybrid model.

I'm the kind of reading addict who always has a book going in every format. I read an eBook, listen to an Audio Book, and have a paper book in progress most of the time. What you want really just depends on where you are and what you're doing. For textbooks, I much prefer eBooks. I also like listening to children's audio (things like Harry Potter). My paper books can be anything from Lord of the Rings to Childhood's End. But my favorite digital story is Isaac Asimov's "The Last Question" http://www.multivax.com/last_question.html

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