Texas’ New Library Won’t Have Any Books

In San Antonio, an entirely bookless library system

Empty bookshelves at the Seattle Central Library. Photo: J. Brew

The end of the library as a repository of printed books, heralded by digital book and e-reader fans, is coming. In San Antonio, Texas, says The Verge, the city’s newest library, opening in the fall, will be entirely without books—the test site for America’s first all-digital public library system.

The announcement was made recently by Nelson Wolff, a local judge who is spearheading the development of a county-wide library system, says the San Antonio Express-News:

Today, after months of planning, Wolff and other county leaders will announce plans to launch the nation’s first bookless public library system, BiblioTech, with a prototype location on the South Side opening in the fall.

“If you want to get an idea what it looks like, go into an Apple store,” Wolff said.

Wolff says that he sees his bookless library as a supplement to, not replacement for, traditional libraries. Since many people lack the means to access electronic books, says the Express-News, the library will loan out e-readers. According to the Express-News, the library’s name, BiblioTech, is meant to be “a play on the Spanish word for library—biblioteca.” It also lines up perfectly, phonetically at least, with its French equivalent: bibliothèque.

The library will not be the first bookless library in the country, parts of Stanford, Drexel University, the University of Texas at San Antonio and the Cushing Academy—a boarding school—have already gone digital. In 2002, a Tucson, Ariz., public library opened a bookless branch, but has since added books.

Though all-digital libraries may seem like the way of the future, a report published by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found that a majority of people under 30 still use libraries and that most of the books being read by young people are paper books.

More from Smithsonian.com:
Young People Still Love Libraries
Libraries’ Surprising Special Collections