The BiblioTech library in Bexar County is doing something that no library in the US has ever done. Since last year, the organizers had a grand vision of an all digital library. Six hundred e-readers and over ten thousand eBooks will be available to loan out when the new library opens this week.
The library is based in a predominately Hispanic, low-income neighborhood, where 75% of the population lacks Internet access, yet that’s precisely why the $2.4 million facility was built there, said County Judge Nelson Wolff, who envisioned it when he had an epiphany after reading the life story of Apple founder Steve Jobs.
“Ebook 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 last week.
“We know we’re on the cutting edge,” he said. “Somebody said the other day, ‘There’s 15,000 libraries. Are you sure you know what the hell you’re doing, because none of them are doing it?’”
There are many digital library content distributors out there, that help libraries formulate an ebook system. The 3M Cloud Library managed to win the contract and has been very influential about helping guide Bibliotech.
When a library goes digital, there is often the question of data. How exactly do you go about reporting book purchases, loans, statistics, and other metrics? Laura Cole, Special Projects Coordinator of BiblioTech said, “3M provides lots of data with their online reporting tools and how the content is being used. All of our information is public and has to be reported and how funds are being spent and our annual reports.”
One of the big difficulties surrounding the digital library is the tangible and intangible. It might be easy to report on digital usage, but what about the metrics of e-readers being loaned out, people coming into the library, and the average duration of a computer session? These are challenges facing the library that there is no current solution for.
Over 2,000 residents have already signed up for the service and there is an air of excitement in Bexar County. The grand opening is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.