The first completely bookless library has opened their doors to the public in San Antonio, TX. Bexar County Digital Library prides itself at the “country’s first digital public library”. For people who consider a book to be words that are printed on paper and are bound together this news might be a bit confusing. However, for people who understand that a book can be available in a digital format the new library will make perfect sense. In fact, the new library boasts over 10,000 ebook titles. All of these ebooks are able to be accessed from the library’s 4 touchscreen tablets, 40 iPads, 57 computers and 900 ereaders.
As of now, it is still too early to tell how this new library will perform when it comes to public visits. However, there is one thing that is for sure, and that is this new library is one step closer to a future in which libraries are no longer filled with paper books. We’ve been getting closer to this future for more than a decade and many people are skeptical if this new kind of library will be a good thing.
Libraries, as an institution, are currently having a sort of identity crisis. Most people typically think of libraries as having stacks of books and shelves with titles organized by category. Of course, the image wouldn’t be complete without the stereotypical librarian going around shushing people and helping patrons decipher the Dewey Decimal System. This is how people have thought about libraries for close to a century.
The reason libraries have remained relatively the same for such a long period of time has been because of the traditional paper book. Printed books are an absolutely brilliant piece of technology. They are a durable, portable and inexpensive way to communicate ideas and knowledge. Of course, the most amazing thing about them is how easy it is to share them. Libraries have existed for so long because the general public could benefit tremendously by sharing the same books over and over. This allowed communities to get additional value from a single purchase. Unfortunately, in the technological world all good things must come to an end. Nobody knows how long the printed book will remain the dominant format, but every sign seems to indicate that ebooks will eventually be the most popular way for people to read books.
San Antonio’s new bookless library is supposed to be targeted at communities with low household incomes. The idea is to put these libraries where only 25 percent of the surrounding residents have a form Internet access. This allows the library to provide a vital service to the local community since so much of modern life depends on the Internet.
The way people think of libraries is drastically changing especially among the younger generation. Only time will tell if the image of a library will change in the future. For now, the bookless library of San Antonio is providing valuable services that benefit the people in the surrounding community – just like all libraries do.