A new library to be opened in Bexar County, Texas, will provide visitors with a bank of e-Readers for borrowing e-books ... but books of the traditional paper variety will be glaringly absent. The project marks the first public library to be built as an all-digital service and just to make sure library-goers are in no doubt that it's the 21st century, the interior will feature a design influenced by Apple retail stores.
The library, known as the BiblioTech, was announced by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and is set to open later this year. If the scheme proves successful, then similar facilities will be opened across Bexar County.
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And the library’s design? “If you want an idea what it looks like, go into an Apple store,” Wolff says. The designers might have a bit of a task on their hands however, with the new library being built in a remodeled structure that currently houses the offices for Tax Assessor, Justice of the Peace and Constable. Suffice to say, its not likely to be quite up there with Apple’s Fifth Avenue store, but the artist’s impression of the interior does bear a number of the Apple Store hallmarks (at the very least, they didn’t skimp on the sheer number of iMacs).
Library goers won’t have to provide their own devices to take advantage of the BiblioTech’s digital catalog, with an initial stock of one hundred unspecified e-Readers available for lending. Visitors can borrow the devices for up to two weeks, and while the system might seem rather open to abuse, Wolff is confident that theft won’t be a widespread problem. “We do have your name, we do have your address," he says. "You check it out for two weeks, just like a library book. In two weeks, your e-book goes dead, so you won’t have anything worth keeping.”
San Antonio isn’t new to the concept of bookless libraries. The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) was one of the first academic institutions to offer its students a bookless library in 2010, implementing a system that proved popular with students. The public library system will differ from UTSA’s in that it will be “designed for, not adapted to, the digital age”,according to Wolff.
While the jury is out on the success of the bookless library format in the public space, chance are that the new system will split public opinion right down the middle. Though e-book sales continue to grow in strength, a Publisher’s Association report on the first half of 2012 suggests that this may be having less of an impact than expected, with the sales of physical books largely unaffected.
Source: San Antonio Express-NewsView gallery - 3 images