Such is the future of municipal libraries?
There's an argument for that, moth-ball our space consuming book repositories and re-deploy with smaller, more economical "data-centers". Hell, I'm willing to bet you could get Apple, HP, Dell and other companies to chip in on some of the infrastructure cost, in return for deals to buy their machines.
Hey, I like books as much (or more) than the next guy. I've always been a voracious reader. That said, I'm about to make the jump to Kindle and leave paper books behind. Think about it: a network of data centers spread across Houston could be established fairly quickly in the many unused store-fronts (Hey, you could even place one in a couple of the many derelict areas along the MetroRail line.) in Houston, they could be staffed by just a few people (an on-site help-desk person and a centralized IT staff) at a fraction of the cost current libraries are burdened with. An ideal arrangement would be to negotiate exclusivity deals with either Kindle or Nook so that children can download books onto devices they purchased at discounted prices. I'm sure a charity group or two could do a device delivery for Christmas as well. Talk about bridging the digital divide, and at a reduction of costs to taxpayers.
Of course, if you don't like this idea there are others. Many others that don't involve continuing to fund a non-sustainable business model just because it's been around for a long time right? Texans have always been about creative solutions to big problems. Let's go Houston, let's get some creativity flowing here.