Decoding Tomorrow:
Futurism and Foresights Today

Foresights and ideas that expand minds and inspire a change of heart.

Context v Content: a futurist take on Libraries

13 Aug 2012


In an age where any piece of information is just a Google click away, libraries need to re-investigate what business they are in. But, they need to do so in a way that doesn't throw out analogue tradition with the technological bathwater. 
So let us look at a library's role. 

Is it providing content, or context?

In other words, with the explosion of big data, the evolution of the semantic 3.0 version of the web, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing, more and more data, ie. content, will be available with the simple click of a mouse, or smart phone command on the go. This means, that when we search for information, our go-to response is DIY and we use Google-provided algorithms, and increasingly social search to find the information we are looking for. 

Digilogue Anders Sorman-Nilsson

This provides both challenges and opportunities for libraries as traditional custodians of information/content. There is a disconnect between the tradition of storing and making searchable vast analogue volumes of data and content, versus the increasing digitisation of that content and data. In an age where everything that can be digitised will be digitised, libraries need to take a look at the roles they play and the value they add (for example, check out this digital library video).

How much of what a library provides should be analogue content, and how much should be analogue curatorship/guidance ie. context?

Increasingly, in an age of bumper sticker statements, Wikipedias, and increasingly lazy academic standards, we need libraries to provide context through curatorship. Otherwise, we run the risk of Google making us stoopid. In an age where search is largely digital, we tend to get distracted from distraction by distraction, and deep and meaningful sense-making is playing second fiddle to convenience, and a diet of cognitive fast food. 

Can libraries provide the bridge in this tension between technology and tradition?

I believe they can, but it begins with library staff realising the benefits of taking a digilogue approach to their profession - merging the digital with the analogue. Realising the benefits of computer interface to computer interface interactions, digital optimisation, the mobilisation of cloud content, without throwing analogue tradition out with the digital bathwater.

Anders Sorman-Nilsson Futurist

Thus, both generations have crucial roles to play. The Baby Boomers as custodians of wisdom and protectors of legacy - ensuring their insights and curatorship doesn't vanish like the Library of Alexandria, and at the same, the Gen Y digital natives, who can enable the digital sharing of analogue stories. 

This way, a library can better provide value to digital minds and analogue hearts. This relies increasingly on creating experiences, and crafting context for the clients of the library.

It requires the generations to pull together and realise what they can bring to the table, and how the digital and analogue fit together in the right digilogue communications and team mix.

  • What do you think - have you recently been to a library?
  • What impression did it make?
  • How can it better get with the times, without losing its essence?
  • How can libraries maintain relevance in the future?

If you're scenario planning the future of your library, why not enquire to have futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson and his team at Thinque help you out?


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