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Jul 18, 2013 —
by Kara Schroader
In recent years, more people have begun turning on their Kindles rather than turning the pages of print books. This is both a threat and an opportunity for public libraries. According to a Pew report released in December 2012, in the past year, a quarter of the American population read an e-book, and as of November 2012, about one-third reported owning an e-reader or tablet (Pew 2012). This e-reader phenomenon has led some to believe public libraries are no longer necessary. However, public libraries are continuing to validate their relevance through some experimental techniques.
Among these unconventional facilities is the “BiblioTech”, the nation’s first public library system without paper books. This nearly 5,000-square foot, $1.5 million compound, located in Bexar County, Texas, is set to open Fall 2013. The BiblioTech is reported to have 50 computer terminals and a stock of laptops and tablets on-site. The library will also offer an array of preloaded e-readers available for the card-carrying customer to take home. This ambitious plan by Bexar County is being closely monitored by skeptical librarians. Some fear digital versions of most popular titles aren’t available for libraries usage, and are often more expensive than paper versions of the book. Others suggest similar experiments have ended with a push from the public to preserve printed books. However, if the facility proves successful, there is a chance the model could be cloned across the country.
Although the Daviess County Public Library has no plans of eliminating all physical media in the near future, preliminary steps are being taken to maintain the facility’s relevance and to ensure services offered are proficient in fulfilling the ever-changing needs of patrons. The Daviess County Public Library currently has both e-books and e-audios available for checkout to patrons with a valid library card. In addition to digital books, Freegal, a music downloading service, has also been purchased for public library users in Daviess County. Perhaps even more contemporary, the library recently added video games to the collection. Patrons with an adult library card can now check out games for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii.
Exciting changes, such as those evident at Daviess County Public Library, are taking place in public libraries across the country. Despite the cynical views of some, public libraries will continue to prove their relevance through the addition of new services.