Thursday, March 6, 2008

Buildings and future libraries

A good discussion point for libraries and architects: Slashdot reports on a slideshow on Slate addressing the question: "What sort of public library does the 'digital world' of Google, Wikipedia, and Kindle require?"

The very title of the article calls us to remember that libraries live partially in a digital world, but also in a world of story hours, face-to-face discussions, Brownie troops, senior citizens, parents and children. We live in community. Slate notes:

Ross Dawson, a business consultant who tracks different customs, devices, and institutions on what he calls an Extinction Timeline, predicts that libraries will disappear in 2019. He's probably right as far as the function of the library as a civic monument, or as a public repository for books, is concerned. On the other hand, in its mutating role as urban hangout, meeting place, and arbiter of information, the public library seems far from spent. This has less to do with the digital world—or the digital word—than with the age-old need for human contact.
Ross Dawson is no relation that I would claim... I, for one, have hardly an interest in our being a monument, and not much interest in being a warehouse. I'm very interested in community development, child development, economic development, in education, information, sharing stories and propagating culture. In 2019, libraries will continue to be vital, though possibly types of libraries (public, academic and special) may become more divergent via technology adoption and relationships to their several communities. I haven't seen Google, Wikipedia, and Kindle reduce public library effectiveness in these spheres. On the contrary, we can use them to do the things we need to do.

Well, maybe not the Kindle...

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