Bookless Public Library Opens in Texas
I learned to read before I went to kindergarten by reading the comics every morning. Fortunately, I also discovered books and have been an avid reader ever since. I've always been fortunate to live where there is a good public library system and certainly Pima County's is one of the best.
My reserve book list is always maxed out and I love that we can obtain nearly any book from our local library almost as soon as it's published. A creature of habit, I like books printed on paper and don't think I will ever adapt to reading on a Kindle or whatever the other similar electronic book displays are called.
We lived in New Braunfels, Texas in Bexar County for five years where there was also an excellent public library system. Bexar County, one of the most densely populated counties in the U.S. includes the city of San Antonio, and is now in the forefront of the digital reading age.
Earlier this month officials of Bexar County celebrated the opening of the BiblioTech Library, an all-digital public library offering about 10,000 e-book titles in English and Spanish as well as audio books. All are accessible either at the library or via home computer or a mobile device, and all are available free to the county's 1.7 million residents.
BiblioTech has been accredited by the state as a fully functioning public library, not just a tech center, and is staffed by a head librarian and a branch manager. The state's TexShare program allows BiblioTech to share resources with a consortium of nearly 700 public and academic libraries throughout the state, including access to 51 electronic full-text databases.
The new library's website at http://bexarbibliotech.org/ explains how its patrons can access free eBooks and audio books. Like other libraries' services, registration and a personal appearance are required to verify residency in Bexar County. To read an eBook on one's own device, a user must also have the 3M Cloud Library app, which links their library card to BiblioTech.
Once the app is installed, a patron is guided through setup to gain access to the collection. Four icons are displayed as guides including: Shelves, books selected by the librarian, including best sellers and new releases; Categories, all e-books organized by subject; Search, to find specific titles or authors; and My Books, books the patron has checked out.
If a resident does not have an e-reader one can be checked out at the library along with the e-books. BiblioTech has 600 e-readers and 200 pre-loaded enhanced e-readers for children available for checkout as well as 48 computer stations, 10 laptops and 40 tablets to use on-site. Library users will no longer have to worry about over-due books as the e-books are loaned with an app that includes a countdown of days a reader has to finish a book — starting with 14 days.
An article online in Government Technology, Solutions for State and Local Government about the changing face of public libraries states libraries must change to adapt to the new reality. Free computer and Internet access (including Wi-Fi) are just the beginning and are expected by adult library users. Americans value technology and no longer believe libraries are just about traditional books.
Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie is largely responsible for our free public libraries; in total he funded some 3,000 libraries, located in 47 US states. He was a forward thinker, and probably would be in favor of e-books. As for me, I'm wary of the elephant in the room. I do hope books printed in ink on real paper don't go away in my lifetime.
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3 October 2013