First Bookless Public Library?

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff is seriously planning the nation's first entirely bookless public library system.


(BiblioTech bookless library - in concept)

Today, after months of planning, Wolff and other county leaders will announce plans to launch the nation's first bookless public library system, BiblioTech, with a prototype location on the South Side opening in the fall.

“If you want to get an idea what it looks like, go into an Apple store,” Wolff said.

Inspired while reading Apple founder Steve Jobs' biography, Wolff said he envisions several bookless libraries around the county, including in far-flung suburbs.

“It's not a replacement for the (city) library system, it's an enhancement,” Wolff said.

“People are always going to want books, but we won't be doing that in ours,” Wolff said.

The University of Texas at San Antonio is a pioneer among academic institutions with bookless collections and technical libraries. Many cities, including San Antonio, offer downloadable books and other digitized information along with their paper volumes.

But no entire public library system is bookless, and unlike others, Bexar County's BiblioTech library system won't have a legacy of paper. It'll be designed for, not adapted to, the digital age, Wolff said.

“We've called everywhere and I don't believe anybody's done this before,” he said.

Fans of science fiction recall the bookless bookstore in Stanislaw Lem's 1961 novel Return from the Stars:

I spent the afternoon in a bookstore. There were no books in it. None had been printed for nearly half a century. And how I have looked forward to them, after the micro films that made up the library of the Prometheus! No such luck. No longer was it possible to browse among shelves, to weigh volumes in hand, to feel their heft, the promise of ponderous reading. The bookstore resembled, instead, an electronic laboratory.
(Read more about Lem's electronic book store)

Via this very detailed article (if you're interested in the issues - and there are many - in creating a bookless public library system) at MySanAntonio.

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