Library of the Future. The Authors Collection


MY LAST BLOG at Caleb and Linda Pirtle talked about the new BiblioTech Digital Library in Bexar County, Texas.  Today, I want to go into a little more detail on this new, innovative library of the future.

Inspired by Steve Jobs vision of how technology is changing the way we do things, Bexar county management, led by County Judge Nelson Wolff, developed a plan to build its own library system.  The county was paying over $3 million a year to allow county citizens who did not live within the San Antonio city limits to access the city libraries.  And San Antonio could not build libraries outside its city limits.

By starting with a building shell that the county already owned, the county was able to get BiblioTech started – facility, equipment, software, purchase of the first 10,000 titles, and the technology – for just $2.2 million.

Opening its doors on September 14, 2013, BiblioTech is available to all residents of the entire county, including the City of San Antonio, and members of the armed services stationed in the area.  In the first six months, over 20,000 patrons have registered.

Already they are expanding, opening a BiblioTech satellite in the Central Jury Room in the Justice Center. Every one entering there is eligible and often has hours of idle time waiting.   A second physical location is planned for the east side of the county and could be opened by the end of this year.  Other possibilities being considered are small kiosks located within commercial malls and in hospitals. And there is interest in opening BiblioTech branches within the City of San Antonio proper.


The physical library space is part technology center, part reading lounge, part children’s digital learning/play area and part community center. All functions are being utilized, with a little more emphasis on the technology center part and the children’s area.  The most popular service right now is “enrollment assistance days” where the library provides navigators and certified counselors to help residents enroll in the insurance marketplace through the Affordable Care Act. VITA – tax assistance – is also popular.

BiblioTech hosts technology classes, Junior FIRST LEGO League robotics teams, parenting classes, and genealogy classes. The staff is bilingual, so classes can be taught in Spanish or English. The first class was on blogging for senior citizens. It was well attended, including a 92 year-old man who wanted to tell the story of his 60+ year marriage.

BiblioTech has about 600 e-readers to lend out.  They can be loaded with up to five books and will hold a charge for up to two weeks.  They are simple e-readers, do not connect to the Internet and chargers are not loaned out.  At the end of two weeks, the books disappear and the device is no longer useful.  They’ve had a 100% return rate.

BiblioTech also has 200 Nooks with 150 children’s books pre-loaded.  Nooks are more suitable for the interactive nature of many children’s books.

All of the computers in the physical space have desktop links to other free resources like Project Gutenberg, Librivox, Project Muse, Digital Public Library of America and more – these links also are on the BiblioTech website.  There is also access to Zinio (magazines), One Click ( audio books), Mango Languages (language learning programs), Atomic Training (software tutorials), Hoopla (movies, music, audio books, television) and ComicsPlus (comics and graphic novels).

You can see the library of the future, today in Bexar County, just outside San Antonio, Texas.

And yes, it does include a café.

Cover-A Ton of Gold

Please click the book cover image to read more about James R. Callan and his novels.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Jim, I won’t miss the books in these new digital libraries of the future. I will miss the aroma of ink and aging, yellowed paper. Not even the smell of Starbucks coffee was ever able to diminish that. There was always a certain joy in holding a book and knowing it had come off the printing press in 1820 or 1920. I could touch the past.

  • Lira Brannon

    Although I love my nook, there are still many times that I dig through my shelves for a favorite book. I love perusing the spines at the library and pulling out a title that catches my eye. It just doesn’t seem the same on the electronic devises.

  • Darlene Jones

    While I treasure the old books on my shelves, I love the digital age for it’s speed and convenience, not to mention the trees we are (or should be) saving by going digital. Let’s just hope we never run out of electricity.

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