Instead of taking the bus to the library, residents of Bexar County will soon be able to take the library to the bus.

Branded the Ride and Read initiative, Bexar County’s all-digital public library, BiblioTech, is partnering with VIA Metropolitan Transit to provide public transit users free access to more than 40,000 e-books and other media to enjoy on their bus routes.

At VIA’s Centro Plaza Wednesday morning, representatives from both organizations revealed one of six digital library kiosks to be stationed at various transit centers around the city. The machine looks and functions like an ATM, complete with its own bank of digital books, comics, movies, and more, ready to be downloaded to readers’ tablets, smartphones, and e-readers.

Users simply register at the kiosk or use their existing BiblioTech account and select the titles of their choosing on the touchscreen monitor to be sent to their devices. The system is facilitated by VIA’s recently installed 4G LTE Wi-Fi, which services the county’s entire transit network.

“In the same way we connect people on the roads and highways, BiblioTech connects people to the superhighway of information,” VIA President and CEO Jeffrey C. Arndt told the Rivard Report, explaining the similar missions of the two community partners.

The brainchild of Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, BiblioTech became the first all-digital library in the nation when it opened its doors three years ago.

“We created BiblioTech in 2013 with the mission of bridging literacy and technology gaps in San Antonio through our physical branches and online through our digital collections,” Wolff said. BiblioTech now services locations throughout Bexar County including public housing communities, public schools, and military bases, along with the six locations at transit centers soon to be installed.

VIA Metropolitan Transit President/CEO Jeffrey C. Arndt poses with BiblioTech mascot Techolote. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.
VIA Metropolitan Transit President/CEO Jeffrey C. Arndt poses with BiblioTech mascot Techolote. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

The kiosks will be located at Centro Plaza, VIA’s Downtown Information Center, the Ellis Alley Transit Center, the Medical Center Transit Center, the Crossroads Park & Ride, and the North Star Mall Transit Center. For locations, hours, and contact information for each center, click here.

Stressing the simplicity of the BiblioTech system, Arndt demonstrated how to create an account and use the kiosk.

“If I can use this, anyone can,” Arndt said as he downloaded his first e-book with no trouble.

“We want to get books off of the shelves and into your hands,” BiblioTech administrator Laura Cole said. With more than 93,000 patrons, BiblioTech expects to extend its services to many more residents through its partnership with VIA. Meanwhile, VIA hopes that this additional amenity will make time spent commuting more enjoyable and productive for its riders.

When asked if the Ride and Read program might lead to an increase in engrossed readers missing their stops, Arndt was not concerned.

“I’ve been reading on the bus for years and I’ve never missed a stop,” Arndt said with a chuckle, “but I don’t read Stephen King on the bus.”

BiblioTech membership is free and available to all Bexar County residents. Library cards, though not necessary for the new transit center kiosks, can be obtained at BiblioTech’s physical locations at 3505 Pleasonton Rd. and 2003 South Zarzamora St.

Top image: (From left): BiblioTech Administrator Laura Cole, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, and VIA Metropolitan Transit President/CEO Jeffrey C. Arndt try out the new BiblioTech library kiosk at Centro Plaza.  Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

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Mason Stark

Rivard Report intern Mason Stark graduated from Trinity University in May 2016 with a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a minor in arts, letters, and enterprise.