By Heather Zubek

Comfy chairs, walls of books, the latest magazines and even computer games. There’s nothing quite like a visit to a library where you can spend hours killing time or working on that school project.

But that’s changing.  One library in Melbourne is going bookless.

Victoria’s Port Phillip council has voted to move all the books out of Middle Park Library. There will be more digital books, multimedia equipment and creative software packages in an open work space.

“We anticipate being able to transform Middle Park Library in 2018,” says Bernadene Voss, who’s the Port Phillip mayor.

“We are asking for people’s feedback to help us shape the library as a new focal point for the community.”

From left, Hamish Billimoria, 9, Emmy Zhou, 9, and Dhiya Billimoria, 12, reading at Realm public library in Ringwood, Victoria. Photo: Elizabeth Clancy

From left, Hamish Billimoria, 9, Emmy Zhou, 9, and Dhiya Billimoria, 12, reading at Realm public library in Ringwood, Victoria. Photo: Elizabeth Clancy

‘I wouldn’t mind it’

A group of kids at Realm library in Ringwood, Melbourne, agree a library without books could be useful.

“I wouldn’t mind it,” says Dhiya Billimoria, who’s 12 and visits the library at least once a week.

Emmy Zhou is nine and goes to the library twice a week to read and borrow books.

“I would still visit the library if they replaced real books with digital books,” she says.

Emmy Zhou, 9, reading at Realm public library in Ringwood, Victoria. Photo: Elizabeth Clancy

Emmy Zhou, 9, reading at Realm public library in Ringwood, Victoria. Photo: Elizabeth Clancy

Going digital

Two libraries have gone mainly digital because of their communities’ needs, says Sue McKerracher from the Australian Library and Information Association.

“Rhodes library in Canada Bay in NSW has a community that is quite young and ‘techie’,” she says.

The other is The Edge in the State Library of Queensland.

Getting the edge

Created as a “library of the future”, The Edge is a digital space where people can meet and create work using software and media labs.

But most people still want books in their library, says Ms McKerracher.

“We will not be seeing our libraries losing their books in the next five or 10 years,” she says.

“Research shows that when young people read for pleasure, they like a book.”

From left, Emmy Zhou 9, Hamish Billimoria, 9, and Dhiya Billimoria, 12, reading at Realm public library in Ringwood, Victoria. Photo: Elizabeth Clancy

From left, Emmy Zhou 9, Hamish Billimoria, 9, and Dhiya Billimoria, 12, reading at Realm public library in Ringwood, Victoria. Photo: Elizabeth Clancy

Real books better

Hamish Billimoria, from Ringwood, is nine and likes printed books.

“I like flipping the pages of a book and I can take it wherever I want,” he says. “I wouldn’t mind a digital library but I think I would like real books more.”

How public libraries have changed

In 2014-2015 there were more than 23 million printed books in Australian public libraries, and one million ebooks. And there were 167 million printed books lent, and three million ebook loans. From 2010 to 2015 the number of library loans dropped by nearly 16 million.  The number of public access internet devices increased by more than 3,000.

SOURCE Australian Public Libraries Statistical Report 2014-2015

Hamish Billimoria, 9, reading at Realm public library in Ringwood, Victoria. Photo: Elizabeth Clancy

Hamish Billimoria, 9, reading at Realm public library in Ringwood, Victoria. Photo: Elizabeth Clancy

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