Discuss: Going Bookless


So, have you heard about this new, bookless library?

Bexar County in Texas, which houses the city of San Antonio, will be building a bookless library and I’m just not sure how to feel about it. Without actual, physical books on shelves, the library — which will be cleverly called BiblioTech — will obviously rely on e-readers and e-books. According to the Publishers Weekly article linked above, the library would be “open into evening hours, available to registered County residents, and would provide access to up to an anticipated 10,000 ebook titles, supported with a pool of up to 100 e-readers.” BiblioTech will have a heavy concentration on children’s literature and on providing resources to rural communities. The project also boasts a focus on citizen education, hoping to foster a more informed population in Bexar County.

Yes, these sound like good and lofty goals. But one line of this Publishers Weekly article really got to me. Judge Wolff, a politician who is behind the BiblioTech endeavor, has decided that, “providing a mix of services centered on Internet access and access to e-books is a cost effective strategy for providing information resources and library services.”

Cost effective. I’m sorry, but those words have far too much of the board room about them for a library. For me, a library is about as far from the board room and the corporate world as you can get.

While I see the merits in this idea, and while I know that it really is cost effective in these cash-strapped times, there’s still something that rubs me wrong about BiblioTech. I don’t know what the finished product will look like, but I keep picturing a wide open building set in stark white, with e-readers mounted on the walls or on dais around the room, and computer kiosks scattered around. That’s not a library to me. To me, a library means musty pages, shelves to hide in between and alcoves where you can curl up with a good book. An actual book with turn-able pages.

Now that you know how I feel, I’d love to know what you think of this bookless library. Please leave a comment and share your opinions!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

7 thoughts on “Discuss: Going Bookless

  1. Lucas Sifuentes February 5, 2013 / 6:14 pm

    Full disclosure: Literally seconds after finishing this post I checked out seven books to students at the academic library where I work; however, about fifteen minutes before I even read this I was griping to a co-worker about not being able to find a digital edition of William Seabrook’s The Magic Island.

    And that really sums up my views on the issue. I’m in favor of balance. Digital books are great because they don’t take up any space and with them libraries can offer their patrons a wider choice of texts. Also, digitized copies of older books are also a great answer to book preservation (that mildew smell is great but brittle pages are the devil).

    Yet, at the same time, digital books will never be able to replace the emotional comfort supplied by print books to those of us who grew up reading them. Nor will we feel a digital book’s presence. In reality print books are just “totems” of books but what lovely totems they are.

    eBooks are a necessary, and good, part of any contemporary library but they should defiantly not be the ONLY part of one.

    • Editor February 5, 2013 / 8:54 pm

      I like the point you bring up here, Lucas. There definitely needs to be balance between the printed word and digital books. I think where we are right now is probably the happy medium (though, as you bring up, some old books could still be digitized and made more accessible), but the BiblioTech wants to excise printed books from the equation entirely.

      And I absolutely agree that print books offer a comfort to those who have known only them in their reading lives. It’s weird to think that kids are being born now who will only know the digital flip of a “page” on their iPad. Alas.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Lennart Lundh February 5, 2013 / 11:34 pm

    I know that books as I grew up with them are largely going away. I also know I’m just not ready for it. Heck, I even have qualms at times with submitting my work to online-only journals.

    • Editor February 6, 2013 / 6:19 pm

      I’m definitely not ready for it, either. But, we here at the Jet Fuel Review, are quite in favor of online-only literary journals. 😉

      • Lennart Lundh February 6, 2013 / 7:44 pm

        The qualms have nothing to do with the journals that are online — I’ve been pleased to submit to JFR, and will continue to submit. They have to do with the (admittedly false) sense of permanance I get from paper books, and the sense of impermanance I ache from every time an online venue bellies up and deletes its archives. I’ve still got my original copies of the late-Fifties sci-fi anthologies edited by the incomparable Judith Merill, but so many only-online pleasures have gone up in cybersmoke. That’s the source of my unease.

      • Editor February 6, 2013 / 10:06 pm

        I completely understand and – to some degree – share that unease. I hope you don’t think I was attacking you for that, because I certainly wasn’t. It is quite sad when familiar places online suddenly disappears.

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