The Bibliotech Library in Bexar County was the first library ever to forgo books entirely and embrace digital. The branch celebrated its first year of operation last September. Things are working out so well, that the all digital library is expanding into a second location later this year.
During its inaugural year the Bibliotech library has been heralded as a massive success. They had over 136,104 visitors who checked out the library during their first year and 47,514 patrons registered to use the various digital services. The library loaned out 7,147 e-readers and over 102,243 e-book circulations were made since September 2013.
BiblioTech Administrator Laura Cole shed some light on the new location “We will be located in commercial space in a new public housing development. The housing development itself is innovative. It is an energy efficient community with a total of 539 mixed-income units. The development also features 4,200 sf commercial space and 12 live/work units to promote small business. Further, the development promotes walkability with green spaces, walking trails and a plaza to connect residents with the adjacent neighborhoods. The development and its neighborhood are a perfect fit for BiblioTech.”
Laura went on to elaborate the reasoning beyond the selected location “One of the fundamental components of BiblioTech is to provide technology access to underserved areas. A demographic survey of the new location reveals that within a 3 mile radius the median household income is $24,973. The percentage of Latino and African American residents is 95% and only 4% have earned a four year college degree.”
One of the main benefits of an all digital library is that the content can be shared between both locations. The total operating budget of the second location will be a paltry $500,000 for the first year, primarily going to buying more computers, e-readers and hiring staff.
BiblioTech currently deals with more 3rd party e-Book, audiobook, video and academic resources than even Queens or the New York Public Library. Laura said they currently deal with Hoopla for audiobooks, Atomic for software training, Mango for language learning, Comics Plus for comics and graphic novels, 3M Clod Library for e-books and audio books, One Click Digital also for audio books, Image Quest for rights-cleared images, AZ Databases – Search for people and companies, Heritage Quest for Genealogy, Newsbank for digital newspapers and they just subscribed to Ancestry.Com for on-site use at the library.
With all of these different companies having content distribution deals with Bilbiotech, it opens up a number of opportunities for other digital focused organizations to make their pitch. PressReader would likely be one of the big players who could see solid traction at the second location, their digital newspaper solution has been firmly embraced by hundreds of locations throughout the US, including San Francisco Public. I could also see Baker and Taylor’s Axis 360 program do quite well.
All digital libraries will be an emerging trend for the next few years. A new initiative in Omaha is taking over a closed down Borders bookstore and converting it into a multi-thousand square foot digital library. They are not just billing it as a place to get e-Books but a nexus where local entrepreneurs can create the next breakout technologies.
Although the Omaha crew have not had formal discussion yet with BiblioTech, many other prospective locations are. “We have been approached by several other cities interested in setting up digital libraries.” said Laura Cole, “we are more than happy to help and share our experiences. We learned a lot – what did right – what we could have done better – things we never considered.”
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.