A Library With No Books?

old fashioned library

An old-fashioned library

I have always loved libraries, in fact, I have always had a weakness for anywhere that you can find books – antiquarian bookshops, charity paperback shelves, the lovely Deanery secondhand bookstall in Winchester with its honesty box…

But today the Independent has a story about the world’s first paperless library, in Bexar County, Texas, USA. They have tens of thousands of ebooks stored in the cloud and, having never had access to even an old-fashioned library with real books, the people of Bexar County are understandably extremely happy.

The county has 1.7 million residents, so providing a library was never going to be a simple task. The advantages are obvious. It’s cost-effective and well-equipped. “According to its website, the $1.5 million (£920,000) BiblioTech currently has 600 e-readers, 200 pre-loaded enhanced e-readers for children, and 48 computer stations, 10 laptops and 40 tablets to use on-site,” says the Independent.

Its staff, unburdened of the tedious chores of stacking shelves, replacing volumes and cataloguing are free to teach and advise, a clear bonus for those Bexar County residents who are not technology literate.

It’s supremely ironic that the man who set the whole idea in motion, County Judge Nelson Wolff, collects first editions. But good for him, because now BiblioTech is bringing stories and information to people who couldn’t access them before.

But still, a part of me sighs when thinking about a room full of touch screens and laptops instead of bookshelves. There’s something about the feeling of a real book that just can’t be replaced by electronic wizardry. The smell, the weight, the touch – it’s like holding a little bit of magic in your hands.

And we all need magic in our lives, don’t we?

 

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