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The latest controversy striking the tumultuous world of libraries (a very shocking place) is the announcement of a bookless library to open this fall in San Antonio, Texas. The new space will look and function more like an Apple store than what we would traditionally think of as a library, but how much does that matter when it comes to providing public access to information?
The San Antonio library, called BiblioTech, will be a long, open space with a sloping front desk on one side and rows of computer terminals on long tables in the center. A smaller counter will hold a line of smartphones, while the opposite side of the library will host a reading lounge. There will be very few shelves.
It’s not that the BiblioTech doesn’t have books; its books just come in a different form. The space will hold 50 computer terminals, a stock of laptops and tablets, and preloaded e-readers for customers to take home. All the information is still there; it just exists on more platforms than normal paper.
Can you still have a library if there are no print-and-bound volumes in it? The BiblioTech calls to mind the problem currently facing the New York Public Library’s main branch — as useful as technology is, library customers (and the public at large) still love their books. Critics complain that the NYPL’s plan to remove many of the books from its central location into a storage depot in New Jersey to make room for more computer terminals and a cafe is disrespectful to its heritage and turns it into “a glorified Starbucks,” according to the New York Times.
Yet libraries have already been trending more toward media centers than manuscript repositories. It only takes one glance at Rem Koolhaas’s Seattle Central Library, a crystalline glass structure, to realize that you’re looking at something different than a normal institution. The library features large, open reading spaces and over 400 public computer terminals. If it’s more like a Starbucks, so what? It ultimately serves its function as a public resource.
Maybe the more fundamental question is: what is a book? BiblioTech will host e-readers, which will doubtless become a more and more pervasive platform for literary consumption. Books can be read wholly online through a web browser, or downloaded as a PDF, or saved onto a smartphone. When it comes down to it, “book” is just a word for a structured collection of information. It has nothing to do with print or not. A library, as a collection of books, is just as mutable: it’s where we go to consume information and access our shared cultural history, whatever form it may take.
No Vacancy, curated by Jody Graf, will be on view from October 26 through November 8 at the school’s Kellen Gallery in New York City.
Unless you were already familiar with Bey’s documentary work, the horror he refers to might not be recognizable to you.
The intention behind the seemingly bizarre combination was, according to Attie, “to give visual form to the shared American and Brazilian reality of nationalistic divisions that defines our political present.”
Nowhere in the museums’ advertising blitzkrieg for the performance were we told to bring our wildfire-season masks as well as our covid masks, and covid masks don’t prevent smoke inhalation.
Art by Athena LaTocha, Wendy Red Star, Marianne Nicolson, Anita Fields, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith & Neal Ambrose-Smith, and more is on view through January 2022.
Several members of the 2021 cohort identify as artists and storytellers, utilizing the power that art and narrative have on changing ideas of power.
Made possible by a donation from Amazon stakeholder MacKenzie Scott, the award is the single largest in the Bedstuy-based organization’s history.
A donation of two hundred works includes Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Mapplethorpe, Keith Haring, and Donald Baechler.