[iDC] Is there a future for the pubklic libraries?

Anne Balsamo annebalsamo at gmail.com
Wed Jun 29 18:09:45 UTC 2011

Thanks Rolf for the introduction and the question:

The question of the ³future of public libraries² was central to a research
project I conducted for the MacArthur Foundation in 2008.  The project was
called ³Inspiring the Technological Imagination:  Museums and Libraries in a
Digital Age.²  My research team blogged our ³literature review² in 18 posts
on different topics that are archived at DML Central (the virtual hub for
MacArthur¹s digital media and learning efforts).


These posts might be useful for the sites/cites on this question.


I take up this question in my new book in a chapter called ³Designing
Learning.²   I imagine a future of public libraries where they function as a
mixed-reality community based ³making space² (or tinkering space), where the
mission is not only the stewardship and circulation of cultural
infoartifacts of various forms (books, maps), but also the community¹s
³garage² where members hang out to mess around with tools (which could be
loaned) and materials (which could be ³harvested² from local basements and
garages) in face-to-face cross-generational creative projects (references to
Ito¹s work is intentional).  Shelf resources are considered evocative
knowledge objects...not just ³books² or concretized media forms.  The
library becomes a process space for the practice of culture making.  Young
ones learn how to sew, elders learn how to edit video.  All would be
supported by a back-end social networking interest-learning match-making
application.  Think Telic¹s Public School mashed up with the Menlo Park Tech
Shop supported by some sort of civic-minded Carnegie Foundation of the
future interested in creating the brick and mortar infrastructure of an Open
Participatory Learning Network.

Book will be out in a week or so:

Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work (Duke)

Anne Balsamo

On 6/29/11 12:40 AM, "Rolf Hapel" <hapel at aarhus.dk> wrote:

> Hi everyone, 
> I am so thrilled to be part of the Mobility Shift event in October.
> Until then, I am busy with my job, being a practitioner working to transform
> an institution regarded as one of the most crucial societal icons of the
> modern, developed democratic societies.  I am talking about the public
> library, an institution dear to many, if not most people.  I sometimes get a
> little sweaty, though, thinking about the future. Some predictions tend to
> kill the public libraries ­ at least as a vehicle for distribution of
> knowledge ­ together with the printed book in a relatively short term, e.g.
> 2020. Others predict a more social role for the libraries as  public open
> spaces characterized by values that makes it welcoming for all. Others again
> see the public library as a possible open center for informal learning.
> I wonder, if any of you guys have any thoughts on the subject of the public
> library.  Can you see any functions for the public library as we know it in a
> future where e-books and digitization have changed the formats for knowledge
> and culture distribution and exchange totally?
> If so ­ to which problems in the knowledge based, networked society do you see
> the public library as a possible answer?
> Rolf Hapel
> Director
> City of Aarhus 
> City Hall, 8000 Aarhus CDenmark
> Phone +45 89 40 93 00
> Mobile +45 29 20 83 56
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