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The Future of the Library

Libraries - in their historical, current, and future realizations - are an important topic in The Discipline of Organizing, and in particular Chapter 1 goes into some detail about "What Is a Library?"

For many people the abstract concept of a library as an organizing system is hard to see because of the powerful cultural notion of the library as a physical place realized in an inspiring and monumental building or collection of buildings. But as books and other traditional resources in libraries have migrated to digital forms, and as the web becomes the default library for many people, this puts pressure on the "library as physical place" to stay relevant by adapting to new purposes. Of course a big challenge here is that the new purposes that the library must satisfy are changing very quickly, much faster than the inertia of large institutions like big public libraries lets them keep up with.

This tension is the topic of a very informative article in the May 13, 2013 Wall Street Journal by Julie Iovine called "The Library's Future is Not an Open Book" ( It briefly describes some architecturally significant libraries, some like Boston's that were built in the late 19th century and others like Seattle's that were opened just a few years ago. It also discusses some of the challenges and controversies emerging in library renovation efforts like the one underway at the New York Public Library.

Definitely a good addition to my Fall 2013 course syllabus.

-bob glushko

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