Sunday, October 4, 2009

Library 15.0.

Dr. Wendy Schultz's article "On the way to the library experience of the future" is a fun article. I often like reading about things like this, how libraries will be different in the future, with flying e-thoughts and information vacations across the sparkling bridges of one's synapses.

This will be the library for the aesthetic economy, the dream society, which will need libraries as mind gyms; libraries as idea labs; libraries as art salons. But let’s be clear: Library 4.0 will not replace Libraries 1.0 through 3.0; it will absorb them...

But Library 4.0 will add a new mode, knowledge spa: meditation, relaxation, immersion in a luxury of ideas and thought. In companies, this may take the form of retreat space for thought leaders, considered an investment in innovation; in public libraries, the luxurious details will require private partners as sponsors providing the sensory treats. Library 4.0 revives the old image of a country house library, and renovates it: from a retreat, a sanctuary, a pampered experience with information—subtle thoughts, fine words, exquisite brandy, smooth coffee, aromatic cigar, smell of leather, rustle of pages—to the dream economy’s library, the LIBRARY: a WiFREE space, a retreat from technohustle, with comfortable chairs, quiet, good light, coffee and single malt. You know, the library.

This is the library as sci-fi romance novel. But I particularly like the bit about newer forms of library not abandoning old forms, but "absorbing" them. The proselytizing about new forms of technology often feels as reasoned and fruitless as the condemnation of new technology, just as the library's utopian future seems as likely as its dystopian one. These are extremes, but they're not caricatures of libraries or librarians, but all part of a vast consciousness, with different worries and different hopes. It's not useless to let reality get away from us. Daydreaming is probably one of the most practical things I do.

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