This isn't your childhood library.
The Hunt Library at North Carolina State University is beautiful. The main floor looks more like a sleek Apple showroom than a stuffy library. And instead of a Genius Bar, there's an Ask Me alcove, where you can get help on everything from laptops to flash drives.
Rather than the Dewey system, color-coded walls, stairs and elevators help you find not just books and research papers, but also media rooms, video game collections and even a 3-D printing lab to create plastic models. But the best part? Built with state funds and private donations, it's open to the public.
Welcome to the library of the future.
"There's a lot of talk about how libraries should change, but very few ideas of how they should be shaped," said Vaughn Tan, a member of the Harvard's University Library project. "Every library should figure out what they want to be and just do that."
Across the country, in the booming Bexar County in San Antonio, you'll see the same thing: groups of people huddle over gadgets instead of the card catalog, as food and coffee vendors dot the space. No stern librarian here to hush you into submission -- if you need to concentrate, "just enough" noise is better than absolute silence. One thing's missing at Bexar County's library -- the books. That's right -- a library with no books.
The nearly 5,000-square foot $1.5 million compound, dubbed the "BiblioTech," which opens this fall, will have 50 computer stations, along with 150 e-readers, 25 laptops and 25 tablets for residents to check out. It also plans to team up with local schools and give digital literacy courses to lure visitors.
Just like traditional libraries, you use a card to check out any of the 10,000 e-books, and you'll have two to three weeks to read them before they simply disappears from your e-reader -- no late fees, overdue fines. In fact, you'll never have to step foot into the library. Just borrow and return material from a computer or smartphone. But if you forget to return an e-reader, it'll deactivate it remotely to remind you.
The all-digital library was a practical solution to San Antonio's problem -- a library system that served the city population well, but left the growing county population in the dark. Leaning on digital helped BiblioTech pull together assets and collection quickly, rather than spend time and resources building up a physical book inventory. "For us this was just an obvious solution to a growing problem," said Laura Cole, project coordinator. County judge Nelson Wolff even said the Apple store look and feel inspired its long, gadget-topped workbench layout.
It's a high-stakes gamble for libraries. And nothing, it seems, is too sacred.
Click here to read more.