How to imagine the future

At a work meeting today we had an exciting chance to see the emerging ideas for our University’s new library extension. These were presented by the architects who did a great presentation – very refined and to the point, and without too much “architectese”.

They then turned the tables and set a workshop session for the aufience; asking us to consider what essential tips should be considered when creating a library space. What would be the essence of a library in ten to fifteen years?

Forecasting the future is difficult at the best of times, but right now this is very tricky given the changes being brought about within the HE landscape, which are happening at the same time as a digital sea-change (think tablets and ebooks).

Tonight I read a column in Wired by Claudia Hammond entitled ‘Your memories are made to be reliably unreliable‘. This suggests that memories are vital in allowing us to imagine the future – to time-travel mentally. It cites evidence suggesting that future thinking relies on our memories of the past.

If this is the case then it might explain why the task we were set today – imagine the library of the future – is quite hard for techies. If imagining the future relies on memories of the past, then we need to ask questions that can draw relevant experiences out of people. Techies might not be the world’s most frequent library visitors, but they do visit other places that are handling knowledge and information.

Today we were provided with mood sheets showing photos of existing modern libraries. Whilst these were good references, perhaps a session designed to get techies to draw on their non-library experiences might draw out some more imaginative responses that may provide a clue to what the future of a digitally relevant library should look like.

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