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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Is It A Library Without Books?


Can a library really be a library without physical books on its shelves? According to officials in Bexar County in? Texas, this fall we will see one of the first all-digital libraries in a physical building.

Desks with terminals will provide patrons with access to digital resources – books, periodicals, databases, reference volumes. Etc. E-books will be available for checkout. Even e-readers will be available for borrowing. There will even be a coffee house to give it a communal feeling – and a profit center. But it won’t have any paper materials.

Some 20-25% of US libraries, according to American Library Association, do not feature a single digital book. That is hard to fathom, just as a library without paper is. 39% of libraries already loan out e-readers.

A library without paper seems unnecessary. What about book discoverability, where you wander along a shelf and randomly pick out books? What about being able to flip through an encyclopedia or fact book and stumbling upon interesting information? What about our youngest readers who want to touch picture board books and turn the oversized pages of coffee table books filled with photography? What about learning without a screen in hand?

I think digital can be useful and powerful when it comes to our communications system and with information-sharing, but I do not think we can be a digital-only world anymore than we can be a paper-only world. There are pros and cons to paper materials and to digital ones. We need both to thrive.

The library, of all places, should be a home to dual learning. Print should be alongside digital materials. What is next: a robot to replace a librarian? I am sure Google and Apple are working on that right now.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2013 ©

2 comments:

  1. I love the community of a library! And to me, there's no substitute for a solid hardcover book in one's hands. However, perhaps libraries that struggle for funding will be able to keep going with 'digital help'. And new libraries, once up and running, may find it cheaper to have on-line books rather than paper.
    Better to have digital library than no library. But I agree that surely a balance of both is ideal.

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  2. While discovery by way of shelf scanning can be useful, I feel it's far more important to have access to librarians. We still don't have a way to replace the accumulated experience & training of people who have studied library science, and guided users in doing research. Better to forgo large building and costly physical collections than to give up library staff.

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