Bookless Libraries?

That was the headline that was all over Twitter this morning, pointing to a story about a town in Texas that is soon to open a bookless library where users can check out ereaders loaded with their choice of books.

This is going to change everything, according to the local officials:

Precinct 1 Commissioner Sergio “Chico” Rodriguez said, “This is an incredible project that I’m very happy to have in my precinct. I think it’s really going to change the way that our residents begin to incorporate technology, reading and learning into their daily lives.”

Liz Dwyer at points out two of the obvious problems: not all books are available as ebooks and not everyone knows how to use an ereader.

I know several of the geekiest of techno-geeks who simply don’t like reading using an ereader. Should they be forced to change their voracious reading habits when the world is full of analog books?

In fact, two communities that tried the bookless concept–Newport Beach, California, and Tucson, Arizona–ended up adding analog books to their collections at the community’s request.

My own library system has a nice hybrid: analog books on the shelf with a robust interlibrary loan system and digital books available for checkout on your own device. It means I can access library books even when I can’t get to the library. But when I’m in the mood for browsing the shelves, flipping the pages, and looking for other materials like magazines, music and videos, I can head to the bricks and mortar version.

Finally, I hope these bookless libraries will recognize that people use the library for much more than consuming media: my own library has computers and printers, a fax machine, workshops on resume writing, and activities for families. In our quest to do something “cutting edge,” let’s not lose sight of the things that are working in traditional institutions.


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