In our last post we talked about the future of academic library spaces. We encouraged everyone to dust off the shelves and to begin to think differently about their libraries. Recently at Puget Sound, we had the opportunity to brainstorm with social activist and library supporter, Micah White. Micah is one of the founders of Occupy Wall Street and a former editor of Adbusters. His unpublished dissertation, Post-Search: Libraries, Search Engines and the Organization of Knowledge reflects his innovative thinking and challenges us all to consider some fundamental questions about the future of libraries. Micah draws inspiration from the Five Laws of Library Science by S.R. Ranganathan:
- Books are for use
- Every reader his or her book
- Every book its reader
- Save the time of the reader
- The library is a growing organism
At a roundtable luncheon with librarians and faculty he posed three questions:
- How do we organize libraries to unlock the knowledge hidden in the stacks?
- Why do digital natives avoid the library stacks?
- Imagine what could come after the Library of Congress classification and rows of well-organized books?
We were intrigued and challenged by these questions and here are some of our thoughts:
New technologies like Google glass can anticipate and connect students with resources before they even know they want it
Libraries need to adapt to the changing ways that digital natives find information. LC doesn't always work. Of course, a radical transformation of library space and classification might not be possible - but are we really supporting creativity with our static rows of books?
Physically placing interdisciplinary works together to spark imagination and to encourage the serendipitous aspect of creative discovery.
Are new book displays really the way to go? What about displays of books recently checked out, what is trending, books selected by departments or faculty, books not checked out?
Use our digital technology to create virtual browsing rooms to help recreate the visual and tactile experience of browsing
Establish a twitter feed of books just returned or checked out
We think the library of the future will have books - but perhaps we need to think about how we arrange them and take more responsibility for curating collections to inspire students to use resources in new and creative ways. The design and order of our physical book collections may indeed foster the ongoing development of electronic discovery and virtual browsing.
We'd love to have your responses to Micah's questions posed above. And in the meantime, I think I will take a lead from Alice in Wonderland. After falling down the rabbit hole, Alice is confronted with a bottle labeled "Drink me" and a cake labelled "Eat me". Of course she couldn't resist, and the end result was a wild cacophony of events she could never have imagined. So, how can we help "every book find its reader?" Maybe we need to encourage our students to 'drink' and 'eat' them. TAKE ME HOME, CHECK ME OUT, and LOOK AT ME notes might just appear on some of our dusty books, and we'll let you know what happens!