Near Future Library Competition
‘Future Thinking’ is a way for institutions to understand rapid social and technological change. It helps us to start to engage with what the future might look like. However, another way of looking to the future and considering different possibilities is Science Fiction, whether printed word, such as the far future works of the likes of Ken McLeod or Ian Banks, or on screen in shows like ‘Star Trek’ or ‘The Expanse’. Different works can have greater resonance at some times than others – depending perhaps at what’s happening politically around us.
Science Fiction is an important way to imagine possible futures, and see how current technical developments might stack up. Interestingly, in screen Science Fiction, libraries tend to be still recognisable as libraries -- think of the Great Library of Ossus in Star Wars, or Doctor Who’s planet-sized library in “Silence in the Library”. However, modern print Science Fiction tends to project a wired future where the library is ubiquitous and therefore invisible. Sometimes librarian survives as a profession, as in David Drake’s ‘Lt Leary Commanding’ series, or in the Warhammer 40K gaming universe (though all that power armour must make it hard to shelve books...).
The future of libraries lies – of course – probably somewhere in between and also quite different. Recent Future Library reports paint certain elements as immutable fixtures, but at the same time expect lots of change, even in those elements. MIT, who also looked at Future Teaching, put together an interesting roadmap for their library https://future-of-libraries.mit.edu/ and SCONUL have recently released a report call ‘Mapping the Future of the Academic Library’. Writers and researchers can help us to think about the future, but so can the users. Our library exists to serve our students, and it’s the students who will go on in time to shape the actual future. That’s why the Information Services Group are launching the Near Future Library Competition. If you’re a student, what are your thoughts on the future of the Library at Edinburgh University? Write us an essay, tell us a story! There are four strands to the competition: written creative, written other, visual digital, and visual other, with a £1,000 prize for the winner in each category. The competition is open to all matriculated students at the University of Edinburgh. Click here for more details.