If you take a look at the artist’s rendering below, you might think this library design was dreamed up for The Jetsons. Not so–BiblioTech is slated to open in San Antonio this coming fall, and is the brainchild of Bexar County’s Judge Nelson Wolff. When finished, this “library of the future” will be nearly 5,000 square feet and house not one physical book. Instead, computer access will be de rigeur, and 150+ e-readers, laptops, and other devices will be available for loan. Folks who already own and use e-readers will also have access to a wide variety of electronic materials and ebooks.
The space is conceived as a learning center where people can learn to use a variety of technologies, and, according to Wolff, is not meant to replace the city’s existing libraries and print collections but to supplement them. He describes the layout of the new branch as “like an Apple store.”
Though BiblioTech is being touted as the United States’ first bookless library, this idea isn’t revolutionary. In fact, other public libraries have tried–and failed– to make a bookless model work. According to this excellent NPR article, “In 2002, at the Santa Rosa Branch Library in Tucson, Ariz., officials attempted to bridge the digital gap in the community by offering a digital-only library. Years later, however, residents — fatigued by the electronics — requested that actual books be added to the collection, and today, enjoy a full-access library with computers.”