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San Antonio Set to Open the Nation’s First Bookless Public Library

By Dennis Abrams

library computers

Remove the books, and that's what you'll see...

According to the website “My San Antonio,” the city is set to open BiblioTech, the USA’s first book-less library, later this fall.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff got the idea for the library while reading Walter Isaacson’s bestselling biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs, saying “If you want to get an idea of what it looks like go into an Apple store.” He envisions several more bookless libraries being built around the county.

“We all know the world is changing. I am an avid book reader. I read hardcover books. I have a collection 1,000 first editions.  Books are important to me,” Wolff told ABC News. “But the world in changing and this is the best, most effective way to bring services to our community.”

The 4,989 sq-ft. library will offer 50 ereaders for loan, along with tablets and computers, plus ebook loans for existing ereader users.

“It will be a learning environment — you’ll be able to learn about technology itself as well as access a tremendous amount of information,” Wolff said.

It’s interesting to note that BiblioTech is going in on the city’s less affluent South Side, where, according to My San Antonio, just a decade ago residents protested over the lack of bookstores.

“We know they have less access to technology and less economic power than other regions of the city,” Wolff said. “Now we’ll be providing them a service that anybody else that has money could have.”

And while Wolff acknowledges that there may be some losses of the library’s $100 ereaders, he adds, “we do have your name; we do have your address. You check it out for two weeks, just like a library book. In two weeks, your ebook goes dead, so you won’t have anything worth keeping.”

According to Fast Company magazine, other cities have tried building bookless libraries, with limited success.

“Two other attempts to create public bookless libraries — one in Newport Beach, California, and the other in Tucson, Arizona — ended with book-loving citizens getting their way: Plans for the Newport Beach bookless project were nixed altogether after a public outcry, and in Tucson, books were added to the shelves after a six-year dry spell.”

One other potential problem is copyright issues. But University of San Antonio library dean, Krisellen Maloney, who presides over one of the nation’s first bookless academic libraries, remains confident that the concept will spread, saying that the county has the “right idea” because it plans to have personnel available to help library users with homework or other research. “They (Bexar county) are probably coming up to this at just the right time.”

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