Is a library still a library without printed books? A library in San Antonio thinks so and is going completely digital, but don’t assume the idea is headed north of the border any time soon.
Maria Cipriano is collections librarian, Electronic and Online Resources, for the Toronto Public Library system. She says that digital demand from patrons is growing, but there isn’t an urgent need to go “bookless.”
“I thought the San Antonio library was an interesting concept but it is not revolutionary. We have been offering that kind of service already,” she said.
“Right now, I think our libraries already incorporate the principles of (the San Antonio) library.”
Even though you can walk into a Toronto library and still find books, it doesn’t mean they aren’t making technology and space for it available.
“We try to be as responsive as we can given the size of the organization, ” Cipriano said.
Greg Silas of East York is an avid user of Toronto’s library system. He visits the S. Walter Stewart branch regularly and feels the idea of a conventional library needs to change.
“You would think libraries are going out of style because of books, right? Who needs books? Less and less people,” he said. “The library is being used a lot but not for the traditional resources. If you look at what is being used, in terms of square footage, people are not using the books, they are using other stuff.”
Even a regular user like Silas is still unaware of the many offerings the Toronto Public Library has. He says more people would use digital resources if people were made more aware of the services available.
According to last year’s statistics, 1.1 million people borrowed electronic books from the Toronto Public Library. Compare that to the 32 million traditional printed books borrowed and you can see the number is substantially smaller.
“We still buy the print because the demand is there. But for people who want the electronic it is there for them as well. They usually supplement each other,” Cipriano said. “We have to be progressive, we have to have the digital content, but we have to be responsive to what our users are telling us what they want to use.”
The statistics in that second to last paragraph are slightly misleading, comparing borrowers to books borrowed (“1.1 million PEOPLE borrowed electronic books” vs “32 million traditional printed BOOKS borrowed”). How many borrowers of print books were there?