My Time Machine Kinda Sucks…

So, I plan on going back just three years, to 2013.  My time machine isn’t very advanced, I suppose.

This is the year that the alleged first bookless public library opened: BiblioTech in San Antonio. This library loans out ereaders and, of course, ebooks while forgoing print books. My message would be about books and about libraries.

Regarding books, I would caution the library – and the world at large – that a binary decision between ebooks and print books is a false choice. In 2016, it is looking more and more likely that a hybrid model of books is here to stay for the short-to-medium term.

Regarding libraries, I would remind them that the immediate embrace of a bookless physical space may fail to capitalize on the library brand. Indeed, a 2010 OCLC survey showed that 75% of people associate libraries first and foremost with books (Gauder 38). This strong book brand should still be leveraged. Plus, in light of concerns about the longevity of digital media, “[p]aper is still the best medium of preservation, and libraries still need to fill their shelves with… paper” (Darnton 109-110). To that end, any local histories might be best stored as print books, not ebooks. An all digital collection is preparing for a future that may never becoming the present in our lifetimes.

Bookless Library
BiblioTech in San Antonio – the first all-digital, bookless public library. Source:


Darnton, Robert. The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future. New York: PublicAffairs , 2009. Print.

Gauder, Brad, ed. Perceptions of Libraries, 2010: Context and Community. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC, 2011. Print.

One thought on “My Time Machine Kinda Sucks…”

  1. Yes, I agree with your cautionary words to the not-too-distant past. It also seems a book-less library, which relies heavily on digital devices, has the capacity to become obsolete so quickly. What seemed flashy and state-of-the-art in 2013 won’t be for much longer. Digital devices become old news fast, and even the physical space may quickly become out-of-fashion. Furniture for devices, including wall mounts and computer desks may need to be replaced along with devices as shapes and sizes change with each new model. Keeping a space like this relevant and current has the potential to be horrifically expensive.

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