Bookless Public Library to “Look Like an Apple Store”

BiblioTech bookless library

What’s a library without books, I hear you ask? Well, it’s not going to look like what we think of when we hear the word ‘library’, now is it?

The folks in Bexar County, Texas are going to find out first hand later this year, when the first bookless library branch, called BiblioTech, opens a prototype in San Antonio’s South Side. The plans for this have been in progress for a while now, with the planning group headed by bibliophile Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who was apparently inspired to introduce the project after reading Steve Jobs’ biography. And that’s not all it inspired.

If you want to get an idea what it looks like, go into an Apple store... It’s not a replacement for the (city) library system, it’s an enhancement... People are always going to want books, but we won’t be doing that in ours,” Wolff said.

In a bid to save money in these tough times, BiblioTech will be developed in buildings already owned by the County. The University of Texas in San Antonio has pioneered this sort of facility, already offering bookless collections; the students love it.

No public library system exists without physical books — BiblioTech won’t have a legacy of paper books, but will be designed to take advantage of new technologies available in the digital age.

I don’t know, maybe I’m getting old(er) but the idea of a library without books in it leaves me a bit cold. Sure I have a Kindle, but I still like ‘real’ books. How about you?

Dean Fetzer

News by Dean Fetzer

Dean Fetzer is originally from a small town in eastern Colorado, but has lived in London, England, for the past 21 years. After a career in graphic design, he started a pub review website in the late 90’s; He left that in 2011 to concentrate on his thriller writing, as well as offering publishing services for authors, poets and artists. When not writing - or in the pub - he can be found in the theatre, live music venues and travelling.

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Ghostword's picture
Ghostword from Cornwall is reading The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll January 15, 2013 - 8:45am

This is not a library to me.  This looks like an attempt to prolong the concept of the Cyber Cafe.

Kelby Losack's picture
Kelby Losack from Texas is reading Muerte Con Carne; The Summer Job; Bizarro Bizarro January 15, 2013 - 10:17am

Fuck this. 

Frank Chapel's picture
Frank Chapel from California is reading Thomas Ligotti's works January 15, 2013 - 10:46am


Stephanie Bonjack's picture
Stephanie Bonjack from Boulder, CO is reading Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith January 15, 2013 - 2:58pm

The fate of physical collections is constantly discussed by librarians, and none of us ever seem to envision a future completely free of books. In a public library, like this one, most of the needs of its users will be met with e-books, but the problem arises when a patron wants something that is not available in an electronic format. Will BiblioTech offer interlibrary loan services to borrow physical books from other libraries, or will patrons simply not have access to that service? Currently, there are tens of millions of "orphan works" - titles that are still under copyright but the copyright owner cannot be located in order for the item to be digitized. That means that orphan works are only available in print, and most of them are housed in libraries. 

Overall, this isn't a bad idea, but it significantly limits access to information.

Michael Wais Jr's picture
Michael Wais Jr from San Diego, CA is reading "The Iliad" January 16, 2013 - 2:27am

Wow. This sucks!!

I can see so many mistakes happening with the technology and keystroke-errors happening and inefficiency to begin with. Once new technology is unleashed as a convenience, everybody is already way behind and the machines break because people without the technical experience get impatient and try to fix things themselves.

Also, wasn't Texas the same state with Board of Education members who wanted to revise textbooks so they could slip in revisionism for history textbooks and subtly instill creationism propaganda for science classes? If I wanted to do something like that, I'd keep in mind how limiting the attainability of the physical books and being able to mass-distribute and re-code non-physical versions would be a great way to sway peoples' ideas towards a less objective point-of-view. Without the original books, we've got no artifacts to draw our experiences, opinions, inventions, or debates from.

Stacy_R_Haynes's picture
Stacy_R_Haynes from North Charleston, SC is reading Coffee Break Screenwriter January 16, 2013 - 10:49am

As someone who works in a library, I don't like this one bit. E-books are fun, but doesn't take the place of books. A bookless library really sounds like it's all about the tech support and not about reference, ciruclation, or any course material.  

judyh's picture
judyh April 27, 2013 - 6:55am

I work in a library and I use ereader technology both at work and at home.  However, nothing will ever replace actual printed books for me. 


With real books you have the smell of the book,  the feel of the pages, the variety in typeface, and the visual pleasure in looking at a stack of books of various sizes and all with different jackets.  When you buy a printed book, there is a very real pleasure in being the first to open it.  There is more to a book than the words in it.  There is the heft of the book, the ability to shove bits of paper and gum wrapper between special pages, and the ability to (heaven forbid you do this on someone else's book) turn down the corners of pages that have information you want to pursue.   There is the fond memory of the books you loved as a child, along with the memory of what they looked like.  There is the memory of turning the pages of picture books with your children and having your children point to various parts of the page as they explore their blossoming knowlege.  There is the memory of seeing your child sound asleep with a treasured book in his arms.  There is the excitement of opening the gift of a good book and immediately wanting to drop out of the world to read. There is also the pleasure of knowing that the book you hold was once the property of your grandmother, and that you will give the book to your own granchild.  You own that copy of the book and can share it as you wish.


An ereader presents, mostly, text.  I cannot imagine reading "The Night Before Christmas" to your children on an ereader.  How can you spread the book out to cover two laps so that your children can participate in turning the pages?  You cannot make a gift of this ebook (not that you would want to) to your grandchild so that he will have memories of your reading it together.

Ereaders have their place, but building a big room to house equipment that facilitates the consumption of ebooks just baffles me.  Where are the toddlers sitting on the floor in front of the picture book bookcases?   Where are the kids clamouring for the lastest copy of the book in their favourite series?  And what happens when the license expires on an e-book?  The ebookrary has to buy it again and again and again. A library that spends times repairing its books can keep popular books going through many readers with the added benefit of instilling respect for the hard-printed word in those readers.

Yup, I use my Kobo on occasion.  At the moment, I am not reading anything on it.  I am, however, reading four real books.  I still tuck them into my tote bag when I go anywhere.  I keep a book with me at all times.  I never go anywhere beyond my property without a book.  I am sure that there are others out there like me.  I hope you weigh in and let those who control the tax dollars know that we want LIBRARIES, not ebraries.