For as long as I can remember I have had a strong interest in libraries. A number of years ago I started researching what a 21st century library should look like. I watched a lot of TED talks and other videos on the subject, read some articles, and just pondered the idea.
While I might have heard about it earlier but the most powerful story, I heard about what a good 21st century library should be was on a 2013 CBS this Morning story about an all-digital library’s grand opening in Bexar county Texas. They interviewed Judge Nelson Wolff about the vision for what is called the Bexar Bibliotech. Judge Wolff, an early champion of the library, is an odd individual to champion a “bookless” library given that his home library and rare book collection would rival some municipal libraries. But it was a vision for the future.
Fast forward to 2020 and the state of “safer at home” pandemic. Libraries, along with many other civic spaces and businesses, are closed. My own county library, which has never truly embraced digital, is mostly silent with an occasional pick me up post on Facebook, but no real effort to service the community has appeared. Bexar Bibliotech is a different story.
Not more than 24 hours after I posted on Twitter the question about libraries providing Internet access for patrons sitting in their cars, Bexar Bibliotech posts about free WiFi from their parking lot. Whether you follow Bexar Bibliotech on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or their own website; you will find them hard at work servicing their patrons in only a way that an all-digital library can.
Not all libraries have made the digital transition for one reason or another, but the beauty of the Internet is that many of the things the Bexar Bibliotech are doing can be done with a little bit of imagination and a drop of determination. Online classes instead of in person classes, story time for kids, introduction to what digital offering that a library does have and much more can and should be happening.
Libraries should be examining Bexar Bibliotech and developing a plan for the future transition to digital.
Meanwhile, my county library has discontinued a useful digital offering like Lynda.com, has made no real effort to assist people in their time of need, and still has yet to figure out how to link their social media contact on their website.
Bexar Bibliotech is an inspiration and they clearly have an enthusiastic team that has been working hard for years to bring forward the best 21st century library model I have found. They made the transition to “safer at home” seem smooth and effortless.
Kudos to the Bexar Bibliotech team for a job well done.