This weekend, I was humbled to have Bexar County's newest all-digital library named after me, the Dr. Ricardo Romo BiblioTech.
The library is located on San Antonio's Westside, at the Gardens at San Juan Square, just a few minutes away from where I grew up. Nearly a quarter of the residents in the neighborhood have never attended high school. It is an area where home computers are a rarity, and where many feel that an education is beyond their reach.
With this new library, it is my hope that nearby residents, their children and their neighbors will take advantage of its free technology to explore the world through reading.
One of my first jobs, at age 13, was as a library assistant at Horace Mann Middle School. It had a profound influence on me that has lasted a lifetime. It opened up new worlds that I didn't know existed, and it created my love for reading.
UTSA and Bexar County are pioneers in digital libraries. In 2010, UTSA was the first university in the nation to open a completely bookless library on its campus. In 2013, Bexar County opened its first digital library. It has become a model for public library systems across the nation.
When the bookless Applied Engineering and Technology Library first opened on the UTSA Main Campus, it was an unfamiliar model that took the world by storm. The library, which will celebrate its fifth anniversary this fall, now welcomes more than 70,000 visitors each year. E-book checkouts at our libraries are about 330,000 titles annually.
Like UTSA students, faculty and staff, our county leaders understand that reading and learning are critically important in today's world. Since opening its BiblioTech South, Bexar County has seen almost 200,000 visitors pass through its doors, and community support has been exceptional.
An investment in reading pays dividends for a lifetime. The more we make this digital technology accessible to the public, and particularly underserved communities, the greater those dividends.
While I am honored to have the BiblioTech at the Gardens of San Juan Square named after me, I share this recognition with all those who have created this innovative system for learning, both at UTSA and throughout our community. I particularly want to thank Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and the Commissioners Court for their leadership in making this technology accessible to those who need it the most.
This summer, let's all spend some time with a book, whether on paper or online, and remember just how much joy can come from reading, imagining and dreaming.
President, The University of Texas at San Antonio