With textbook readers and digital downloads proliferating, it is easy to imagine a time when printed books will vanish. Such forecasts miss the mark, argue Jeffrey Schnapp and Matthew Battles. Future bookshelves will not be wholly virtual, and libraries will thrive—although in a variety of new social, cultural, and architectural forms. Schnapp and Battles combine deep study of the library’s history with a record of institutional and technical innovation at metaLAB, a research group at the forefront of the digital humanities. They gather these currents in The Library Beyond the Book, exploring what libraries have been in the past to speculate on what they will become: hybrid places that intermingle books and ebooks, analog and digital formats, paper and pixels.
Libraries have always been mix-and-match spaces, and remix is their most plausible future scenario. Speculative and provocative, The Library Beyond the Book explains book culture for a world where the physical and the virtual blend with ever increasing intimacy.
Transcending the tired debate of print vs. electronic, analog vs. digital, the authors take a long view of library history and attempt to envision possible scenarios for libraries of the future… Schnapp and Battles make an invaluable point: libraries, from the smallest to the largest, have way more stories than they know, and The Library Beyond the Book represents a rare attempt from outside the professional community to help libraries reconceive and better tell these stories. Also, they show that imagining the future of libraries doesn’t have to be a gripe session filled with doom and gloom; it can be exciting, original, and fun.
While iPad-bearing soothsayers banish print books to dustbins, coauthors Schnapp and Battles, both insightful provocateurs from Harvard University, envision dynamic and fluid architectural spaces warehousing paper as well as pixels. In a spirit of refreshing experimentation, they ask: What flexible qualities from the past can accommodate tomorrow’s information consumers and, when combined, produce innovative configurations for a digital world? These structures incorporate basic components used in libraries across centuries, such as bookshelves, card catalogs, librarians, and reference desks. Building upon this framework, the authors imagine six plausible scenarios for serving tomorrow’s diverse information consumers, situating libraries as everything from study shelters to civic institutions functioning as mobile libraries, reading rooms promoting social change, and/or event-driven knowledge centers… Schnapp and Battles offer plausible configurations of both book and library in the age of the Internet of Everything. Their imaginative essays demonstrate the rigorous research and design thinking customary within university settings.
Lively, quirky, and irreverent, this provocative book provides a refreshing tonic to stale debates about the death or deathlessness of the book.
Jeffrey T. Schnapp and Matthew Battles’ The Library Beyond the Book offers a brilliant reflection on, and a cross-section through, the past, present, and future of the library. If books have never been just books, as they suggest, this publication demonstrates that libraries have never been just libraries.
- 176 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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