Paperless library opens in Texas

The Bexar County Digital Library doesn't have printed books – instead it lets patrons check out e-books and audiobooks.

Courtesy of Bexar County Government
The San Antonio Digital Library (pictured) has facilities including computers and e-readers that are available for check-out.

A library without any printed books has opened in San Antonio, Tex. 

The Bexar County Digital Library, or BiblioTech, allows users to check out e-books and audiobooks and opened on Sept. 14. According to NPR, a library in Arizona previously focused on digital materials only in 2002, but the facility later added print books back to their collection.

There are 48 computers and 600 e-readers, as well as multiple tablets and laptops, at the BiblioTech, according to the library. Staff suggest that patrons bring their own devices as well so they can access e-books and other materials more easily, but patrons can also check out e-readers for use.

The BiblioTech was the brainchild of county judge Nelson Wolff, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Wolff came up with the idea after reading about the life of Apple visionary Steve Jobs.

“E-book readership was going up, more ebooks were being produced, so we thought, why not address that segment at probably one-third of the cost... as opposed to building a big branch library?” Wolff said. “We know we're on the cutting edge. Somebody said the other day, 'There's 15,000 libraries. Are you sure you know what... you're doing? Because none of them are doing it.’ We believe we know what we're doing.”

Patrons must register and go to the library in person to prove they live in the county. If they’re using their own devices, library visitors have to download a Cloud Library app which will let them access the system and check out e-books as well as look at their account information. The app also notifies patrons of how many days they have left on a title.

Using a desktop app, library users can also read titles on a PC or Mac computer if they don’t have a phone or other smaller device.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, 2,000 patrons had already signed up for the library on Sept. 13, the day before its opening. (1.7 million residents live in the county, according to NPR.)

Patron Esperanza Pargas, who is 68 and said she doesn’t have Internet access at her house, told the Express-News she thought the facility was “excellent. It's going to be very easy to pick a book and not have to worry whether I lose it or damage it.”

Belen Mendoza, who is 10, told the Express-News, “I love the games and the library. You can get it at the touch of a button.”

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