The first public bookless library in America opened in September in San Antonio, Texas. Called Bibliotech, membership is free to all residents of Bexar County, which is where the city is located.
At first glance, “bookless library” is an oxymoron, but it refers to a library that has no physical books. Another way to describe it would be a completely digital library. Currently, libraries public and private accommodate both physical and digital materials.
Even though it contains no physical books or other publications, Bibliotech does occupy physical space – about 5000 square feet of it. As a public institution, the library will serve as a place for the public to gather. The space is filled with workstations and rooms for classes, meetings and individual study. And while the library can be accessed via personal devices and internet connections from home, it will serve the needs of residents of Bexar County who don’t have the means—about one-third of the people in the neighborhood do not have Internet access at home.
Browsing is done with e-readers, either the patron’s own device or one of the many that Bibliotech can provide. The library has 600 e-readers, 200 pre-loaded enhanced e-readers for children, 48 computer stations, 10 laptops and 40 tablets to use on-site.
The library’s collection is supported by 3M Cloud Library, a cloud-based book-lending system. As for staff, rather than dealing with the daily tasks of managing physical books, magazines and newspapers, they help people get up to speed on the technology and provide the other research and reference assistance done by all librarians. They have also started an online book club via Goodreads.
Moving from Physical Library to Digital / Virtual Library
As the first all-digital public library, Bibliotech is the exception. Most libraries will continue to house physical collections, as it is simply too costly or impractical to digitize the diversity and volume of physical materials in their collections. Yet Bibliotech certainly signals what we are likely to see more of in new library development, as books increasingly move to digital format and people prefer to use their tablets and other e-reading devices.
For managers of both physical and digital libraries, LAC Group offers a wide range of library services for law firms, corporations, academic institutions and public systems. Diverse client projects have included foreign language cataloging, acquisition, digital/virtual library development and mixed media cataloging.