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Bexar County Bibliotech Goes Live This Weekend

The Bexar County Bibliotech is gearing up for its big opening this weekend and staff have been working on community outreach throughout the week to get the word out about the only fully-digital library in the U.S.

The new Bibliotech digital library encourages kids to play video games and the game tables in the children’s room offer space for more than one child to piece together insect parts and play other educational games.

"As you go through the games, each one has a different thing," said Ashley Ekloff, the head librarian for Bibliotech. "There’s one that’s a painting game, with mixing colors. And that’s a skill right there."

The library goes live this weekend and Branch Manager Catarina Velasquez said staffers got some on-the-job training as more than 75 nonprofit groups were invited this week to get a taste of the new high-tech center.

Velasquez said besides electronically-accessible books, Bibliotech offers community space for computer training, author visits and classes for seniors.

"After you get your card, you can download books from home," she said.

Special Projects Coordinator Laura Cole was tasked with putting together the all-digital library. She studied other libraries around the world that were getting good response from a few digital readers and she realized no one else had done this.

Credit Bexar Bibliotech
Using the Aurasma app on your smartphone, point the camera at Techolote the owl to gain access to augmented reality extras from Bibliotech.

"That’s when it got exciting for us," Cole said.

She explained that there was no model, so they built the concept from the ground up.

"We looked at a number different things. We took some to the table and the county manager said, 'That sounds a little expensive, try something else,'" Cole said.

Cole and her team tried different configurations and finally ended up with a product that encapsulates books, games, kids spaces, and community outreach programs that they hope will bring new people into the library environment.

The initial cost to build the library and install equipment was about $2 million -- a low cost for a library start-up. The first year the library will have 10,000 books and Cole said she hopes to expand next year into language learning, computer programming learning and audiobooks. She also said the plan includes adding 10,000 new books each year for the first five years.

Cole said the future of Bibliotech is tied to the needs of the community and technology.

"Five years from now, this could look entirely different," Cole said. "We’re just along for the ride. With technology, you have to jump in someplace. We have this opportunity right now to advance literacy in a way we’ve never had before, and we’re going to take it. We’re excited about it."

Events on Saturday include:

  • Opening celebration from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. with a ribbon cutting, library card registration and library tours
  • Performance by the San Antonio Symphony String Quartet with an "instrument petting zoo"

Bring your own tablet device (if you have one) so staff can help you browse the Bibliotech collection and load the Aurasma app on your smartphone to access augmented reality extras (look for Techolote the owl).
Bibliotech is located at  3505 Pleasanton Road. 

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.