The primary advantage of bookless arenas, according to Houghton? You can repurpose the saved space for work, study or collaboration areas.
Otherwise, she lists three reasons why they’re not such a great idea quite yet.
“First, some people simply prefer physical media — they don’t want to read on a device,” Houghton says.
Second, she points to the issue of the digital divide. Those who aren’t necessarily technologically literate may need extra over-the-shoulder help with the devices in a way that would require a large operation and, consequently, a big budget.
“A huge element is training staff, and that’s even presuming that the library can afford enough of these devices to meet the demand,” Houghton explains.
And the biggest issue? Most content is simply not available digitally to license and purchase.
“So your selection of best-sellers and popular media just went down the toilet because 99 percent of that is not available to libraries digitally,” she says.
Many publishers don’t license to libraries, and those willing to do business often have what Houghton considers outlandish terms — too expensive or unrealistic for a library’s allowance.
Libraries — with books — are still important, no matter how many digital devices we own.