Courtesy of UTSA
Although UTSA president Dr. Ricardo Romo’s office is filled with books, the library branch that now bears his name is completely book less.
This summer, the Dr. Romo Bibliotech was brought online. The city of San Antonio’s second bookless library branch not only provides a service to the community but also stands as a pillar on West Side San Antonio, where many prominent San Antonians grew up including Romo.
“We feel that naming the library for Dr. Romo will serve as an inspiration to the young people of the West Side,” said LauraCole, BiblioTech administrator. “We want those who use it to be proud of their community, and be reminded that they, too, can achieve great things.”
The Dr. Romo BiblioTech, located in the Gardens at San Juan Square, a San Antonio Housing Authority community, is the first digital library co-located in a public housing development. It was opened less than two years after Bexar Bibliotech opened the country’s first all-digital public library.
“More and more our lives are being ruled by technology — by these small screens we hold in our hands — so it only made sense to take the library to where people are,” County Judge Nelson Wolff said. “Putting the library in a public housing community even furthers the goal of bridging the digital divide within communities that need the technological resources most.”
Romo knows first hand the value that a library like BiblioTech brings to the community. Growing up in the West Side, he was used to the lack of books in people’s homes, including his own. It wasn’t until the Horace Mann Middle School seventh grader was asked to be a library assistant that his interest in books was peaked.
While he remembers the West Side as a loving community and feels fortunate to have grown up there, Romo also knows that a library enabled him to learn and explore the world beyond his neighborhood.
“Things got interesting after I started reading books. The world all of a sudden became expansive,” Romo said. “It wasn’t just revolving around my own little world. The world got bigger.”
The minds behind the library are providing exactly that: a world opening experience. Bibliotech set to work in earnest after a visit to the Applied Engineering and Technology (AET) Library at UTSA, the first bookless engineering library in the United States.
“We were inspired, in part, by the open feeling of the library and how much could be accomplished with such a small space,” said Cole.
The Dr. Ricardo Romo BiblioTech provides the West Side community access to what it lacks: learning tools and bandwidth. The opportunity to access the Internet for answers to their questions and the access needed to apply to college.
“Our goal is to provide reading and technology access where there would otherwise be none,” Cole said. “Then we focus on providing educational support, making sure that everyone, regardless of where one lives, can have the same opportunities for success.”
The effects the investment Bexar County and the San Antonio community have made, along with BiblioTech’s efforts, are already evident.
The first branch of the BiblioTech has had more than 146,704 e-books circulated and has reached 43,986 school-age students through BiblioTech Edu, but the Dr. Ricardo Romo branch is not far behind.
Since July, the Dr. Ricardo Romo BiblioTech has already seen at least 1569 visitors and has checked out 66 electronic readers, including 24 children’s readers.
With a third branch coming next year in East Side San Antonio, more children will have access to books and see their own world expand, as it did for Dr. Romo.
“It’ll happen earlier than for me; they don’t have to wait until the seventh grade,” said Romo. “They’ll be ahead in terms of getting an education, learning, becoming a student of the world.”
Dr. Romo Bibliotech is located at 2003 S. Zarzamora, Bldg 10. It is open Monday through Friday from 12:00 PM to 8:00 PM and from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. For information on their collections and events visit their website: http://bexarbibliotech.org/west.html.