Symposium on the Future of Libraries
In 2015 and 2016, a working group of librarians, architects, anthropologists and software designers convened in person and by phone to describe and understand the current state of technological and architectural formats for academic research; to discuss research process and needs as observed at Northeastern, MIT and GeorgiaTech; to explore technological and architectural developments both inside and outside libraries that could inspire the creation of new forms; and to design new architectural-scale research technologies for academic libraries. The working group participants were not academic researchers in either the STEM fields or the humanities – but rather were professionals and academics working in the design of libraries and in instructional design from many detailed perspectives. Each contributor had to work both within and outside their areas of expertise to postulate architectural, social, technological, and software solutions that might be possible as a complete prototype. The next step in this research process is to build one or more of the prototypes and to test it with a beta group of academic researchers across disciplines.
In October 2016, the working group and others convened for three days of design, modeling, and prototyping of new architectural-scale formats for information discovery. Drawing, modeling, and sketching, participants worked at a range of skill levels from basic to intermediate (per their capabilities) with instruction and assistance from workshop members with architectural and design expertise. The three-day workshop fulfilled the following sequential objectives:
1) Learn about areas of expertise of other participants.
2) Individually produce as many creative ideas as possible in writing, sketching architectural plan, elevation, and perspective views (including cartoon or stick figures); and modeling with clay, paper, tape, and other simple materials.
3) Read, view, and add to each others’ work through additional sketching, modeling, and notating.
4) Group similar concepts codify each group to a set of design, content, and approach questions.
5) Debate and advance the five strongest concepts.
6) Work in teams of two to develop each concept through written, sketch, and 3D-modeled documentation.
7) Communicate designs to each other and to an illustrator. Following the workshop, Sorensen sketched and story-boarded scenes, evolved the architectural concepts of each team through additional sketches, and interpreted content produced by the workshop participants to illustrator John Nelson. Working together, Sorensen and Nelson agreed on which images to publish in order to illustrate the concepts in a communicative way that also foregrounds the prototype creators’ intent. Nelson developed the technically-specific graphically communicative illustrations in his own signature approachable style.
8) Document the function and form of each prototype with a user manual. Sketches produced throughout the workshop were cut-and-pasted into the appropriate sections of the user manuals in order to ensure that all ideas generated in the workshop were categorized for future use in developing the prototypes. Each team drafted text for all or most of the following user manual sections:
- Research/Search Discovery Concept
- Software Concept (from both researcher & administrator perspectives)
- Haptic & Learning Experience (written description)
- Architectural/Industrial Design Concept (written description, sketched plan view, and perspective view)
- Materials, Equipment, and Estimated Cost List
Time and research dollars should be spent on prototyping new ways to access knowledge in academic libraries. The experiments conducted by our collaboration are emblematic of any number of future experiments that should be done by universities across the world.
ALA Unit/Subunit: ALA, Center for the Future of Libraries
Meeting Type: Symposium on the Future of Libraries
Cost: Included with full conference registration.