A Kind Reader sent this article about a “bookless library” being built in Texas, the BiblioTech. Etymologically, a “bookless library” is an oxymoron, but maybe they don’t take that sort of thing seriously down in Texas.
Nevertheless, the guy responsible for it is very excited. When explaining the concept, he says, “”Think of an Apple store.” Good grief.
There have been many models that libraries have tried to emulate, bookstores being the most obvious. Back in the last millennium we were told to make libraries more like the big chain bookstores, so they would be popular and all. Wouldn’t it be great if libraries could have the popularity and staying power of Border’s Books, some librarian probably asked.
And now, the Apple store: soulless, shiny, and designed for cult worship. Some of you might be in the cult and now feel offended, so take a look at this description of the training manual for the so-called Apple “geniuses.” They’re training the “geniuses” to do all the things cult leaders do to recruit people. After you’ve been deprogrammed you’ll see what I mean.
Still offended? An AL post is like a good library. It has something to offend everyone.
Soulless and shiny. Is that really the best model for libraries?
Normally I would start pointing out all the problems of this so-called bookless library, but fortunately I don’t have to. Instead of getting the typical media hype, we instead get some really good critical and investigative journalism.
Seriously, read through that article, from the question in the title (a new chapter?) to the history of bookless libraries to the examples chosen to support an “evolving digital backdrop.” That article was written by someone who actually knows something about books and libraries or bothered to find out. No shushing stereotypes there.
It helped that the reporter interviewed a librarian who’s gone on record pointing out the various ways ebooks are a bad idea for public libraries given the way they are currently marketed and licensed, someone who hasn’t joined the cult proclaiming we have to go all digital no matter the costs or problems.
She points out that some people want regular books on paper. In fact, a lot of people do, maybe even the majority of people. But trying to silence the spread of that obvious truth is the new shushing stereotype of some librarians.
“And the biggest issue? Most content is simply not available digitally to license and purchase.” Yep, that’s a pretty big issue, and it’s an issue that’s not going to go away. The visionary dreamers look at the technical possibilities, which indeed are amazing, but don’t look at the legal possibilities.
Yet the reporter found good examples of bookless libraries, the engineering libraries at the University of Texas-San Antonio and Stanford University. Practically speaking, lots of engineering libraries don’t use or need paper books. It’s a field in which almost everything is available online and in packages that don’t come with the hassles of dealing with Overdrive and the big commercial publishers.
An engineering librarian comments: “”It’s available on our network 24/7, so students can download them locally on their computer, phone, wherever, whenever…. Continuing to make the library info space relevant as the technology improves is definitely where we’re moving.”
That’s supposedly the mantra of the guy down in Texas building this new bookless public library. It’s a great mantra.
The obvious problem is that the publishers and patrons of engineering books and journals are completely different from the publishers and patrons of public libraries. Those engineering libraries aren’t being revolutionary or pushing the envelope. They’re just adjusting to the reality of communication in engineering.
If anyone bothers to follow up on the story, a few years after the BiblioTech opens we’ll find out that while the computers were great and all, some of the public wanted to read stuff the library couldn’t get online but which was inexpensively available in print. Some of the computers will be removed to make way for book stacks and magazine racks. That would be such a novelty it would be worth reporting on.