The Age of the Bookless Library?

Earlier this month, the first bookless public library opened its doors in San Antonio to enthusiasm and increased patron counts.

The Bibliotech Public Library in Texas is an all eBook library that circulates kindles and other e-readers. At first glance, this new library feels more like an apple store than the stacks and that’s intentional. The space is sparse save for a line of browsing monitors. Librarians imitate apple geniuses, roaming the space with no information desk in sight.

The idea of the bookless library has been percolating in the library community for years. Some consider these efforts to avoid obsolescence, while others see it as  library pioneering.

In academic libraries, creating collection-less spaces has been an emerging trend among major academic library leaders like North Carolina State University, which opened the “bookless” Hunt Library in 2013.

Even before NC State, Stanford’s Engineering Library went bookless. As did part of the University of Chicago’s collection with Mansuetto Library.

To say these libraries are “bookless” is somewhat of a misnomer. The books are still there if you want them, they are simply hidden from view, literally moved underground. Both Hunt Library at NCState and Mansueto Library at U of Chicago take their lead from major online distributors like Amazon. They use compact warehouse technology and employ “book bots” to grab titles by call number, with finding and browsing capabilities exclusive to computers above ground.

The lack of stacks opens floor plans. Much of this new space is re-purposed as group study in an attempt to meet the growing need that parallels the increase in collaborative learning happening in today’s classrooms.

So, what do you see as the future of academic libraries and the future of Marquette libraries? Do you hope for futuristic collaborative spaces with book bots grabbing your requests? Or, are you nostalgic for cozy, book-cramped stacks where opportunity for serendipitous discovery might still exist?


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