NPR recently reported that an all-digital public library opened in Bexar County, Texas. The BiblioTech library facility offers about 10,000 free e-books. "The library has a physical presence with 600 e-readers and 48 computer stations, in addition to laptops and tablets. People can also come for things like kids' story time and computer classes, according to the library's website."
The question is whether the bookless library will take off this time. "[T]he idea of a bookless library has been tried before — perhaps a bit too early. That was in 2002, when Arizona's Santa Rosa Branch Library went digital-only. Years later, however, residents — fatigued by the electronics — requested that actual books be added to the collection, and today, enjoy a full-access library with computers."
It'll be interesting if this starts a trend around the country. I am sure many public libraries will be watching statistics at BiblioTech to see how things have changed since 2002. Now may be a better time for public libraries to embrace this trend, but I think they will still see some backlash from the community of people who traditionally use the library -- they tend to like their books.
In a recent effort to go digital, the Fairfax County (Va.) library system's decision to destroy a reported 250,000 books drew the ire of residents — and an editorial from The Washington Post. It will be easier for new libraries to start out all digital than for libraries with a substantial book collection to revert to all digital.
This will not affect academic law libraries in the immediate future. While we are currently going through a shed West era, we still have quite a while before all of the material is available digitally. Of the 2 million unique volumes contained in America’s law libraries, only about 15 percent are available in digital form. That figure includes access via proprietary, commercial services like Westlaw and LexisNexis.