From the Boston Globe:
As the director of both the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the metaLab (at) Harvard, he typically spends his days grappling with the urgent questions of the wired world, but right now, his most pressing concern is more concrete. In a rapidly digitizing world, he is asking what will become of physical libraries — and their material soul, books.
To answer the looming questions, Schnapp started an experiment called the Library Test Kitchen. It’s a laboratory class in Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, and this fall will mark its third year in operation. Dedicated to rescuing physical, book-dense libraries from obsolescence, the team of students and instructors dream up designs that, as Schnapp says, “create a hybrid space where analog and digital coexist.”
The Library Test Kitchen began in response to Harvard’s Library Transition, a massive and elaborate administrative restructuring to bring the world’s largest university library into the 21st century, with 17 million books trundling behind. The initiative, which was implemented last summer, includes aggressive staff consolidations and an emphasis on providing digital access, rather than purchasing physical materials. It matched a growing trend for big changes in research libraries around the country and the university’s overhaul struck many on campus as a short-sighted divestment in the school’s resources and reignited the ongoing debate about the future purpose, and relevance, of major research institutions.
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