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Texas County Plans All-Digital Library
Imagine a world where a trip to the library no longer meant heavy bags full of books and magazines that can’t leave the building. One Texas county is way ahead of you.
Bexar County is in the early stages of planning a book-less library, dubbed BiblioTech, which would allow visitors to borrow e-readers from a sleek, Apple-inspired center.
“BiblioTech is Bexar County’s new concept in offering library services,” Judge Nelson Wolff said in a statement. “It should not be seen as a replacement to the traditional library.” Instead, it is an enhancement to the current county-wide system.
Extensive growth in Bexar County means that residents now live farther away from the nearest library and other city services. BiblioTech aims to remove barriers to library access, enhance education and literacy, and promote reading as recreation, according to a county press release.
Aside from the usual access to on-site computers, local residents visiting BiblioTech will be allowed to check out an e-reader for a limited time, much like they’d borrow a physical book to take home. Those with their own e-readers or tablets can access the library’s collection remotely with a personal ID number.
“The ever changing landscape of technology means that literacy is no longer about picking up a physical book and being able to comprehend the words,” Wolff said. “Technology is changing the way we read, learn and thrive as citizens of the 21st Century.”
Bexar County isn’t the first to offer bookless collections, though it may be the most innovative. In June, the Pew Research Center reported that more than 60 percent of the general reading public has no idea that they can borrow e-books from libraries, even though three-quarters of the nation’s public libraries offer the service.
Wolff’s vision indicates a minimalist media center that is designed for, not adapted to, the digital age, according to My San Antonio.
“If you want to get an idea what [the proposed library] looks like, go into an Apple Store,” he told the site. Wolff was reportedly inspired while reading Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’s biography.
Not all classic library features will be lost among the modern décor: Bexar County promised study spaces, meeting rooms, and a designated interactive children’s area inside of the 4,989-square-foot space.
“Students who live in this area of Precinct 1 […] have limited resources to complete research, use a computer or simply read a book outside of their school facilities,” Commissioner Sergio Rodriguez said in a statement. “Once we open BiblioTech this summer, they will have a world of learning available to them all the time.”
Located inside the Precinct 1 Satellite Offices on Pleasanton Road, the center will be open seven days a week; the county expects a summer launch. The commissioners’ proposal includes 100 e-readers for circulation, 50 pre-loaded enhanced e-readers for children, 50 computer stations, 25 laptops, and 25 tablets to use on-site. The collection will include 10,000 current titles to start.
By Stephanie Mlot, PCMag