Een interview met BiblioTech, de Texaanse bibliotheek zonder papieren boeken

15 februari 2014
BiblioTech in San Antonio, Texas haalde bij de opening vorig jaar de wereldwijde pers, als de eerste openbare bibliotheek zonder papieren boeken. Niet zo verwonderlijk, want een bibliotheek zonder gedrukte werken in de collectie: kan dat eigenlijk nog wel een bibliotheek zijn? Het concept riep bij mij, net als bij Jeanine Deckers, allerlei vragen op. Dat ik die vragen twee weken geleden kon stellen namens InformatieProfessional aan Laura Jesse van Bexar County vond ik dus wel aardig. 
Die vragen -en antwoorden- verschijnen in het volgende nummer van IP maar Laura vertelde me meer dan ik kwijt kon in 1250 woorden. Voor haar persoonlijke kijk op de meningen over deze bijzondere bibliotheek had ik helaas ook geen ruimte meer. Die mening publiceer ik daarom maar alvast hier. Ik vind het namelijk toch de moeite waard. BiblioTech is (nog) veel meer bibliotheek dan ik had verwacht. Sterker nog: deze bibliotheek doet veel van de dingen waarover ik liep te mijmeren na een bezoek aan de Apple Store in Londen. Interessant is het concept in ieder geval zeker.

I come from a journalistic background, so this is a very non-librarian take and you may not want to use it Now that you have my disclaimer, here goes: I view the world of digital publishing for news’ sake and for libraries’ sake on a similar level: at the newspaper I worked for there was the old guard who thought the internet and the immediacy it gave to news were the end all be all of the integrity of the industry, of newspaper publishing, reporting, etc.

In following the reception of BiblioTech by the librarian collective, I see a lot of the same arguments. Old school journalists argued that these so-called “citizen journalists” with their blogs and phone cameras and no academic training were going to degrade the trade; today’s kids would never know the pleasurable tradition of waking each morning and tearing through the physical newspaper over breakfast and a cup of coffee. 

Librarians have argued that we are shorting our residents of the wonder of libraries filled with stacks of books, removing that sensory pleasure of smelling, touching and turning the pages – not to mention not all titles are available digitally. I would argue that they’re right and they are wrong. On the journalism side, yes there is a certain comfort in settling in to read the Sunday paper. And while I enjoy that, I also find myself doing so from a tablet or computer more often than not – and what I take away from it is still the same, it doesn’t matter if I have ink stains on my hands or fingerprints on my tablet screen. On the library side, yes, I have great memories of sitting in over-sized rocking chairs in the children’s section of the Central Library in San Antonio in the early 80s reading book after book and then taking a stack home with me. 

Well, today kids’ learning and reading experiences are largely digital and that is starting at a very young age. I have a friend whose toddler daughter was trying to tap on images in a paper magazine because she was used to the digital form. If newspapers and magazines and libraries aren’t willing to budge and bend to the next generation’s way of learning and reading, then those institutions are failing the next generation. I think in both the journalistic world and the library world, the focus should be on education, literacy and reading – regardless of whether those words are on physical pages of a newspaper or a book, or on a tablet or computer.