The nation’s first all-digital public library opened in San Antonio on Saturday.
Officials in Bexar County want you to know this no ordinary library. Dusty old books are replaced by sleek display monitors. Mobile apps have taken the place of card catalogs. Just one glance at its interior and patrons may very well be led to believe they are in an Apple store or a trendy coffee shop. And this perception is only reinforced by the legion of young “techies” who are employed by the library to assist patrons with the state-of-the-art equipment.
The Bexar County Digital Library is the result of a $2.4 million endeavor, funded by the county’s tax revenues in combination with over a half million in private donations. Dubbed “BiblioTech,” the concept was approved in January and was completed just eight months later.
According to the Bexar County website, patrons will be able to read e-books, browse the Internet and take computer classes all from one of the hundreds of publicly-owned electronic devices on site.
The library is stocked with 48 iMac computer stations, 9 Macbook laptops, 40 iPads, 200 Nook tablets preloaded with content for kids and 600 3M readers that can checked out for reading at home. The library has thus far amassed 10,000 e-book titles and is looking to expand the already-impressive collection within the coming year.
Patrons can even access the library’s digital catalog from their mobile devices – allowing for users to “check out” books from anywhere with an Internet connection. In order to check out book electronically, users must download an app which can be linked to their county library card.
Along with dusty old book covers, late fees may also become a thing of the past. According to My San Antonio‘s guide to the digital library, the app used to check out books will feature a countdown indicating how much time is left on the current rental. Patrons will have 14 days to read a given title before the book expires.
The library has been lauded for increasing access to material for county residents who live in unincorporated areas. No longer is transportation an issue; all that separates them is an Internet connection.
BibioTech is located in San Antonio’s South Side, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood where 75% of the population lacks Internet access. Because of its location, county leaders believe the library will provide a service where it is most needed.
Keeping with the theme of modernity, organizers of the grand opening on Saturday forwent traditional ribbon cutting, opting instead to ceremoniously press a “power on” button. Two cannons of confetti then fired off.
Time Magazine recently did an entire feature on Bexar County’s innovative move and the state of the public library in present-day society. Read the full spread here.
And don’t forget to check out CityTownInfo.com’s infographic for an overview of modern views of public libraries and how they have adapted to the 21st Century. Find it below: