Bookless libraries?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22160990

I like the tone of this article. It is as dismissive of the concept of bookless libraries as it is accepting. Why, and yet why not?

Firstly, the term bookless is misleading. The library in Texas discussed in this article might be full of e readers and computers, but it will also be full of books, albeit not in any physical form. The concept seems to be about accessibility more than anything else, and probably won’t be in any way a money saving enterprise, meaning the concept won’t be of any practical use to the UK libraries in the monetary sense – people out there are still incensed by the closure of their local library due to government spending cuts.

But there will always be those traditionalists who dislike the idea. My view is this – what is more important? There is no doubt that books themselves can be important historical artifacts whose existence must be preserved, but the question to me is what, really, is a library? Is it a place to store books, or a place to access them, to find and share information, and provide a venue for reading and learning? If books were more readily available to borrow in electronic format, accessibility might be made easier, with the reader being able to tailor their experience to suit their needs – audio format, large print, or translated into another language.

Still, though, there’s no way I would advocate a library that didn’t include at least some physical books. Older titles, that are as good now as they ever were, will probably never be digitised, and as I said, books are important to us simply by their very existence. Digitising a children’s picture book or a how-to manual probably wouldn’t work very well. But I am not adverse to a balance between the two. This, surely, would allow the ultimate accessibility.

 

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