In San Antonio Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff reinvented the library. When you walk into the Bexar County digital library, you’ll see plenty of screens — but zero books. It doesn’t look like a library, and that’s the point. Wolff says BiblioTech costs less to operate than traditional libraries. It needs less space and fewer workers.
BiblioTech was built in a city that is 63 percent Latino. Most of the people in this neighborhood do not have internet access at home. The library lends out inexpensive e-readers, permits downloads from home, and conducts technology classes on-site. In the back room, there’s a space for children with tablets as big as the kids using them.
The $2.4 million project has not come without criticism, though. The majority of newer, popular titles are not available. Publishers simply charge too much for the e-books. “It probably is a little bit ahead of its time,” Wolff said. “We can’t get every book that we want in an e-format. And we are paying more for them.” Wolff is expecting 100,000 visitors in the library’s first year. And he’s aiming to build more bookless libraries soon.