BiblioTech opens a new chapter for bookless libraries near the end of its first year, set to pass 10,000 visitors. In San Antonio, Texas, residents initially awed by a library with no books have warmed up to the rows of gleaming iMacs and iPads ready to be lent out loaded with books. San Antonio is the countries 7th largest city, but citizens were worried about being ranked 60th is overall literacy. In addition, there wasn’t a lot of money to build bookstores or traditional libraries in the economically challenged southern areas filled with thrift stores and low income housing. Nearly a decade ago, it was proposed that this was the perfect chance to try a bookless library. Laura Cole, the project coordinator for BiblioTech, says that although the digital copies available to check out are bought at the same price as physical copies, the library cost millions less to build simply because it did not have to store any books.
Even with 4 dozen iMacs priced at over $1,000 each and a veritable flock of iPads costing around $400 each, the lower price of construction and the surge in popularity as BiblioTech opens a new chapter for bookless libraries shows the all digital library format has promise. While some are understandably slow to adopt a system that does away with the familiar smells and weight of the classic stacks of library books, the ability to hold a thousand novels in hand is swaying non-believers. Coming up on its first year, the popularity of the new format shows no signs of slowing down. Librarians at BiblioTech recall the troubles of mis-shelved items lost in random stacks, items not being returned, and patrons confused by complicated organizational systems. After trading in their cardigans for trendy hoodies and giving a few quick tutorials, they say the new way works much better, once they got used to it.
Now that local residents have picked up the idea, BiblioTech is one of the most popular spots on the block. The modern design and orderly layout stand out sharply against the aged strip mall it resides in, and students from the local high school often swamp the plentiful iMacs after class. After the initial adjustment period, BiblioTech is seen as any other library, a quiet place to study, a place to find new stories, and a place where you must whisper. Despite the change in format, the trappings of the classic library we all know are still alive and well. Since the copies are all digital, books can be borrowed on BiblioTech iPads loaded with up to 5 at a time, or checked out online through a mobile app. The problem of items not being returned is a thing of the past, once the due date is reached the book is deleted from the device. Despite the value of the iPads themselves, over the last year there have been no cases of people not returning them on time. As BiblioTech opens a new chapter for bookless libraries, the effect of technology on our lives is shown in a sharp, yet comfortable way.
By Daniel O’Brien