Future of Libraries Think Tank


Published: October 28, 2013 by Sue Alman

An eclectic international mix of professionals including “librarians, archivists, and museum professionals, developers and technologists, publishers and authors, teachers and students, and many others” traveled to Boston on October 25 to celebrate the launch of the Digital Public Library of America. DPLAFest (http://dp.la/info/get-involved/events/dplafest2013/) provided opportunities to discuss the future of DPLA through a series of workshops.

I had the honor of co-leading the Future of Libraries Think Tank with Jeffrey Schnapp, Faculty Director, metaLAB(at) Harvard, Co-Director, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and Shailie Thakkar, Master’s Candidate and Researcher, Carnegie Mellon University HCII, Madeira Interactive. The workshop enabled participants to engage in a forward-thinking discussion on the future of libraries and library technology.

The session began with scenarios provided by Jeffrey Schnapp that are highlighted in his forthcoming book with Matthew Battles, The Library Beyond the Book, (http://jeffreyschnapp.com/the-library-beyond-the-book/) and the challenge to develop a list of changes libraries can make in the short-term and future to embrace technology and engage the community.
Attendees were divided into groups and given 45 minutes to develop their plans and share them with all participants. The result was a mix of ideas that need to be explored in greater detail; however, the following list will provide an overview of the ideas that bubbled to the top:
• User Experience

  • How can we preserve “experience?”
  • How can we share individual interests?
  • Potential of future of library is sharing experiences.

• Maker Spaces

  • Expand notion of Maker Spaces to encourage people to think about engaging in research that results in public products.
  • To help people engage with treasure of data/maker tools.
  • Make library catalogs more user-friendly

• Producers-in-Residence

  • Expand user community
  • Publishing works: espresso book machine
  • Providing deep dive archival access for storytelling and new works
  • Open to: journalists, media artists, scholars, technologists, designers, independent digital conservators, etc.
  • Fair Use Zones (#FUzones) – Free Culture Zones… supporting uninhibited digital creativity on library premises… finding way to share and publish it
    • Users need access and skills for technology
    • Waves and trends/Libraries are beehives
    • Adaptability in physical space
  • New materials created by communities
    • Do we need categorize and catalog all materials OR just provide access?
    • How can we insure access without interference of organizations?
  • Best information or “any” information trade-off
    • Value of expertise/lateral thinking

• Broader view of libraries as places for open access/civic responsibility

  • Periodic civic hack-a-thons, policy discussions, show-and-tell meet-ups to showcase interpretations/uses of data
  • Libraries as partners with local government: aggregating and providing access to municipal data
    • Open data specialists on staff
  • Caveat: High school can’t access DPLA because of URL/filtering
  • Public library place to relate to local issues/addressing local community
  • Libraries are catalysts for transformation

• DPLA/Power of the Platform

  • DPLA is an example of infrastructure to support many interests/ideas
  • Engage scholars to use DPLA materials and develop new materials
  • Expand DPLA’s vision of itself as a platform.
    • Platformize all libraries.
    • Notion of library as a problem-solving unit. How do we build bridges between local realities and larger platform? Topic for imagination.

• Re-Branding Efforts

  • How do libraries relate to activities/organizations/people around them? How are they a team player?
    • Librarian
    • Library
    • 3rd space into digital realm


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