Beware the Bookless Library

C/O Bexar County Government

Designed like an Apple Store (gag!), the bookless public library in San Antonio is causing quite a buzz. Personally, walking into a space that looks like an overly-bright hospital cafeteria, lined with blinking electronic devices gives me a headache and makes me feel sorry for the employees who work there. Admittedly, I am not an Apple fan. I don’t get why iMac Groupies would clamor to get inside such a place to buy the latest iPhone when the one they’re talking on still works.

I do have an iPod Classic, given as a Christmas gift. Sadly, the thing is becoming more and more difficult to use because everyone in the universe thinks wireless is better. Bluetooth may be convenient, but I still haven’t finished burning all the CDs I own. I’d like to create playlists from stuff I’ve already purchased before clicking around the ever-changing iTunes interface to find more music.

I have an iPad, given as a tool for work. Other than the always inconvenient printing problem, the iPad works fine. Mostly because I still haven’t updated to iOS7. Hey, I witnessed what happened to people who updated. Maybe iOS8 will be better. I can wait. Or, maybe Mac will feel sorry for releasing an operating system that wasn’t really finished, like Microsoft with Windows 8. That reminds me, I’d better upload the free Windows 8.1 to my husband’s Tablet before Windows 9 comes out.

Where was I? Oh yeah. The bookless library. One visitor was reported to have said, “…This is the future. If you’re going to be building new library facilities, this is what you need to be doing.” – Dallas News

As one who is connected all day at work, I can tell you that there are lots of times at home when the last thing I want to do is look at another screen. I don’t want to poke at an iPad, Tablet, Nook, cell phone, or iPod. I don’t want to click on the keyboard of a laptop, calculator, or TV remote.

Ahhh. The smell of a book. The feel of the pages between my fingers. The security of knowing exactly where I left off by the bookmark wedged between pages 247 and 248. The beauty of the unchanging black ink on the off-white colored paper…

I am not one with the guilty inclination to unplug and read and old-fashioned, tree-killing book. In the write-up about the bookless San Antonio Library, the Dallas News reported, “Similar proposals in other communities have been met with doubts. In California, the city of Newport Beach floated the concept of a bookless branch in 2011 until a backlash put stacks back in the plan. Nearly a decade earlier in Arizona, the Tucson-Pima library system opened an all-digital branch, but residents who said they wanted books ultimately got their way.”

Here’s something else to consider. The Harvard Graduate School of Design, as part of their “Labrary” Project in 2012, created a wifi cold spot. (See video clip)

Librarians beware! The touted bookless, Apple-model library is not for everyone. It’s our job to advocate for un-pluggers who want a respite from technology as well as for wifi-lacking people who need access to it. To accommodate everyone, libraries will need to include digital resources as well as shelves for some of those great-smelling, refreshingly no-tech, physical books.

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