Monday, May 14, 2007

My Library of the Future (for LINT)

[Prelude: Thanks to CW for telling me about this post from LINT, and Peta for inviting me to "get creative for May". I've slightly revised this earlier post, i.e. rewrote the introduction, added section headings, and a part on "Would there be librarians..."]

15 May 2007 update: LINT post here.

My vision of future library spaces was inspired by a video by my non-librarian friend (Kevin). who produced this video of a newly opened "cafe + lounge + bar + business centre + broadcast centre + technogear playhouse" in Singapore called Geek Terminal (GT).

Here's what you'll see in my Library of the Future (the future may be closer than we think):

1) Plug, Power & Play
01:20 mins - "You get to have free power," says GT CEO, Chris. But that's not what's cool. Check out the power-track sockets (Brand name 'Eubiq') that gives new meaning to "plug and play". Produced by a Singapore-based company. More reviews about the power-track socket: here, here, here and here.
screenshot: Geek Terminal - Eubiq power socket

2) Coffee, Wine, and Information
03:10 mins - A bar that serves wine and coffee. While it's not surprising to find coffee joints in libraries nowadays, I've not heard of wine bars... yet. "Books and wine". And the librarian could double-up as the bartender serving up coffee, tea, wine and information! Wine-not? *ouch*
screenshot: Geek Terminal - Bar

3) Furniture that lasts!
03:35 mins - Custom-made stain-proof chairs. According to the GT CEO, "wine, coffee... nothing can stain this chair". If the chairs offer permanent protection against ink (pen, markers etc) from bored teens, then library will get a few thousands of those, thank you.
screenshot: Geek Terminal - custom stain-proof chairs

4) Multi-function furniture
03:45 mins - Well thought-out design for the table. When the food arrives, there's a slot in the table for you to put your laptop away.
screenshot: Geek Terminal - laptop tuck-away

5) Discussion spaces & Noise Dampeners
05:50 mins - I took this shot to show that such a scene (of people crowding around computers for discussions) is already happening in some public libraries, especially those with free WIFI. Perhaps to handle the increase in noise levels, the Library of the Future could have Noise Dampeners -- devices installed just above the individual discussion area that cancels out the noise made from a specific location.
screenshot: Geek Terminal - Food & discussion space

6) Real Meet-ups in Virtual Worlds
07:40 mins - Here's a shot of a meetup participant moving his avatar in Second Life. In the Library of the Future, interactions in virtual worlds might become part of the library's regular activities, in addition to the "traditional" face-to-face interactions. E.g. book discussions in virtual worlds, with international participants.
screenshot: Geek Terminal - Second Life users

7) Configurable Walls and Spaces
09:00 mins - Chris points out the collapsible wall panels. The Library of the Future would have spaces that are configurable and customisable -- without requiring specialist skills to set them up.
screenshot: Geek Terminal - Collapsable Wall Panels

8) Geek-speak Galore (we hope not!)
10:00 & 11:35, 12:20 mins - This part's Geek-talk Galore, on servers, load balancers, bandwidth, Industrial routers... "N-series, which is cool," says Chris. Kevin responds, "You mean A-O2-11-N?" Heh.

In the Library of the Future, library professionals won't be expected to go gah-gah over Geek-speak, but I think at the basic level we must be able to hold our own where end-user level of computer is concerned (maybe by then, we'd understand what they are talking about).
screenshot: Geek Terminal - Gadget talk

9) User-sensitive Information Bar
13:00 mins - The bar pulsates with LED lights installed underneath. OK, a little SciFi indulgence here -- maybe the Library of the Future's "Information Bar" has some built in intelligence.
screenshot: Geek Terminal - LED light bar1
As the librarian conducts the reference interview with the customer, the bar would glow according to the customer's satisfaction level. The warmer colours, the closer the search is to the customer's expectations. The cooler the colours, the more the librarian has to try alternative search strategies.
screenshot: Geek Terminal - LED light bar2
Instead of computer screens and keyboards, the bar counter top acts as the display and input device. I'm sure this aspect is already feasible with today's technology.
screenshot: Geek Terminal - LED light bar3

10) Would books have a place in the Library of the Future?
Yes they will have a place, in my version of the future library.

11) Automated retrieval of physical items
Customers would search the library catalogue via WIFI, and place their "order" for the physical book they'd like to read. The books would be automatically retrieved from compact storage areas (hidden away but still within the library premise) and delivered to the customer at their table.

If it's not delivered directly to the table, at the very least the customer would receive an alert (via SMS or IM) that their items have been delivered to the collection point (e.g. the cafe/ book bar).

12) Space, Aesthetics & Use
The Library of the Future would be a place where there's a harmony between space, aesthetics, and use. If libraries can excite all its users, like what Geek Terminal elicits from those folks, then the library's future is assured. : )

13) Would there be librarians in this Library of the Future?
But of course! It's implied in all the required activities and services mentioned above. I've treated it as a given (plus the need to adapt and change the profession in accordance to customer needs).

[Original post here. Kevin's video here.]


  1. I think librarys still have a place, but they are certainly not going to be as popular or used as much as in the past. The Internet has replaced the library for the most part.

    By the way, I love the way you use video in your site.

    All The Best!


  2. Here's Denmark's vision of "The Lifbrary of the Future" (a YouTube video) by the Aarhus Public Libraries.

    (via Library Revolution)

  3. Library will still be popular but i think it's function and purpose and form will be different. It will become more like a place for people to hang out to read and do research. The surrounding atmosphere and the environment will become a very important factor to attract visitor. I think even if all the book and paper can be digitized on the web, and we can borrow and return book electronically, we would still prefer a place with a good surrounding to read a book. So library will still have it place. On the idea of digitalizing book on the web, although it is possible, i am not sure how it can implement practically with the issue of copyright and piracy. It will be good if can browse and read book.


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