My colleague Matthew Battles and I recently completed the lead book in the new metaLABprojects series that will be launched by Harvard University Press in the spring of 2014. Under the title of The Library Beyond the Book, it reflects on what libraries have been in the past from a broad cultural anthropological and architectonic standpoint in order to speculate on what they will become in the future: hybrid places that intermingle books and ebooks, analog and digital formats, paper and pixels.
Throughout history, Matthew and I argue, libraries have been sites for new media, new technical demands, and new cultural forms, that have encompassed an array of typologies that build into future scenarios for the library after the book. These scenarios include:
- the Mausoleum—a place to commemorate and commune the dead
- the Cloister–a refuge for reflection, meditation and contemplation in shared solitude [Neocloister]
- the Database—a container for information that is classified, accessible, controllable, infinitely expansible
- the sort of Warehouse where the willy-nilly proliferation of documents and stuff is rendered navigable thanks to computational supports and machine eyes [The Accumulibrary]
- a Material Epistemology, where collocations and consanguinities among different kinds of knowledge are proposed, experimented with and affirmed [The Programmable Library]
- and a series of Libraries of the Here and Now untethered to collections, from Mobile Vectors to Civic Spaces (where public ties are forged and affirmed) to freestanding Reading Rooms as spontaneous, popular, insurrectionary responses to closed and controlled versions of all of the above.
Such library types have been mixed and matched in the past, and we argue that remix remains the most plausible future scenario.
Here are some sample layouts from the volume (yet to be finalized), developed by the series art director, Daniele Ledda, and his team at XY communications.