Nation’s first bookless public library system opens

Patrons use computers at BiblioTech, a digital public library in San Antonio, Texas.
Patrons use computers at BiblioTech, a digital public library in San Antonio, Texas.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

The nation’s first all-digital, book-free public library system has opened in San Antonio, with patrons lining up to peruse on online catalog on Apple touch screen computers and check out books on e-readers.

Library mavens from across the U.S. and from as far away as Hong Kong came to view the library this week, according to an Associated Press report.

“I told our people that you need to take a look at this. This is the future,” Mary Graham, vice president of South Carolina’s Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce told the AP. “If you’re going to be building new library facilities, this is what you need to be doing.”


The Bexar County Digital Library, also known as BiblioTech, is located in south San Antonio and is the only public library operated by the county government. (The city of San Antonio, located within Bexar County, operates its own system). It was built with $1.9 million in county tax money and $500,000 in private donations. Time magazine said it “looks like an orange-hued Apple store and is stocked with 10,000 e-books, 500 e-readers, 48 computers, and 20 iPads and laptops.”

The AP repeated the Apple theme, writing: “Even the librarians imitate Apple’s dress code, wearing matching shirts and that standard-bearer of geek-chic, the hoodie.”

As Time reported in September, this isn’t the first time a public library has opened without printed books. In 2002, the Tucson-Pima Public Library system in Arizona opened a book-free branch, providing Web-based services and job training. But after just a few years, the library phased in printed materials. Its patrons demanded them.

As one Tucson librarian told the writer Carrie Russell on her blog recently: “It was the community – the people who lived in the surrounding neighborhoods – that requested that print books be added to the library. They expected books, and they wanted books. Today, the Santa Rosa Branch Library provides everything you would want to see in your library.”


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