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Library of the Future 2012

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 9 months ago

A vision of the library in 2012 is in some ways a complex one. Since it is only four years down the line now, we probably can’t expect anything particularly revolutionary to happen, but even when the date was only 12 years away, writers were in many ways quite optimistic about the future of the library. Far from seeing the death of the library, many saw an expansion of library services, because after all, someone has to take care of sorting, cataloguing, and archiving the new information that grows at astounding rates every year. For example, in 1998, the Library Journal wrote an article envisioning the library performing the task of cataloguing of the Internet in the next 15-20 years in order to circumvent all the “time wasted by those thousands of users as they flounder around (October, 48).”


Encompassing all of these things and more, in her book From Gutenberg to the Global Information Infrastructure Christine Borgman discusses her expectation that more and more information technologies will be developed, creating a global information infrastructure (2000, 6). An article about people’s expectations for the library published in D-Lib Magazine in 2003 envisioned the changes that this infrastructure would facilitate, including “video-displaying walls, situation room theaters, learning "cafeterias," and dispersed, theme-centered constructions utilizing multi-media "books" and other knowledge-based packages, exhibits, arcades and laboratories (http://www.dlib.org/dlib/may03/marcum/05marcum.html).” Going further, there also was included in the library a place for artificial intelligence and virtual conferencing.


Within the library itself, there are those, like writer Charles Mann, who stated in 2001 that the book of the future will “look just like another book…but the spine will be filled with electronic circuitry and a wireless data port and maybe a stylus; the pages will be electronic displays.” He also stated that in ten or so years from now data storage capabilities will shrink even more, and hundreds of novels will be downloaded through the data port. He envisioned “text swiming noiselessly,” onto each page of his prototype, in addition to the ability to continually update scientific texts to keep pace with research. Although in some ways this is very similar to Vannevar Bush and Ted Nelson’s fanciful visions of a more personal information experience, in others, it emulates Amazon’s Kindle and other similar devices that are already in existence.


Another future description of the book that I found in Library Hi Tech, V 19, No 4, 2001, envisioned the entire replacement of the book with low-cost, high resolution ink displays that would include video and sound, becoming more than just a book, but a “container that can hold (or seamlessly connect to) hundreds or thousands of works (380).” No device exactly like this one or Mann’s is in existence yet, but perhaps like Memex, these visions, and other similar ones, will have the power to inspire the development and growth of new electronic reading devices.


Moving wider, it is clear that despite digital books and the Internet, many believe that the library will remain as place-centered as ever, because the library hopefully will continue to be uniquely positioned to buy things that the individual could not. Some, as in Bernard Frischer’s 2012 vision in his article, “The Ultimate Internet Café,” have stated that we need to go even further with this by creating more “real space and compelling architecture (2002, 44)” at library buildings so that people are even more drawn to go to them.

This, and other descriptions of the 2012 show the continuing optimism that librarians and those who love the library and books still share about the future existence of the library. It is possible that these optimists are just following in the footsteps of their forefathers, who, since the beginning of American library history, have believed that people will finally realize the real value of the library. But perhaps, with new developments now and in the near future, these ideals might finally be realized. Especially with the growing agreement that the printed book has not yet become obsolete, with smart planning, the near future may just be the library’s chance to shine.

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