Remember when we asked you to submit your stories for our Futurist Library Story Contest? Well, the time has come to share our top three submissions!
As a reminder for those of you who might not have been avid blogMLS followers when we posted about the contest, our guidelines were to write a story answering the question “what do you think the future of libraries and archives will be,” specifically in 2025?
Our grand-prize winner (of bragging rights) is Lanah Koelle! Her story is posted below. Our second place spot goes to Adam Wall for his story and our third place winner is Patrick Waugh! Congratulations!!
Thank you so much to everybody who submitted stories. Make sure you stay tuned to see Adam’s story on Monday, October 22 and Patrick’s story on Tuesday, October 30.
The Library as a Nexus of Scholarly Discourse by Lanah Koelle
However much the world had changed, Marian still began her day with a cup of tea and a glance at the news from the library world. Today she read about skyrocketing prices for caves and abandoned coal mines, as the desperate search for server space and data storage continued. Meanwhile, the Army for Liberated Intellectual Property had rescued an old film reel rotting in its analog grave at a Hollywood warehouse. Marian then flipped through a slideshow of the New York Browsers, a society of book hoarders who believed that scanning search results could never offer the same joy as discovering a new title on a shelf. They’d formed after the Strand closed and New York Public Library moved the last of its collection offsite.
Marian minimized the news feed on her desk-sized touch screen. She liked working at home and prepared to connect to Freedonia University’s virtual private network. Occasionally, she visited campus to meet colleagues or to conduct a workshop for researchers. Although a few students had scholarships or paid full tuition to attend the exclusive face-to-face seminars, most courses existed solely online. As the number of students on campus had decreased, the library de-accessioned anything available electronically, while other materials were donated to the digitization firm I Want It Now. Freedonia still had a some special collections to support their flagship humanities programs, but most of the stacks had been emptied. The library building became a collaborative research center with galleries, meeting rooms, and offices.
For a long time, Marian tried to keep up with cataloging the explosion of online resources, but the library catalog could never be a surrogate for a search engine. Furthermore, the catalog no longer reflected what the library actually owned; it represented what was available to users. The library still had a small acquisitions budget, for the explicit reason to provide patrons access to subscription or paid materials as they needed them. Most major publications, though, were freely available. Without an all-encompassing catalog, students and faculty relied on Marian’s finding aids to outline the key resources in their field, like digital manuscript collections and online commentaries. Marian also worked with the faculty to make their research discoverable in the university’s open digital repository by assigning URNs and writing rich metadata. She also created entries for the publications in subject specific online bibliographies. As a public institution, Freedonia’s faculty had to share their work through the depository or publish in an open access journal. Few faculty wrote traditional monographs (a symbolic rite of passage for the PhD) as scholarly discourse moved to public online spaces. Scholars and librarians couldn’t simply be monks in the white tower anymore.
As far as Marian was concerned, her job always involved linking people to the information they needed. She continued to help students and faculty locate resources, but now she also ensured that others could find research supported by her library. Marian was more active than ever in the university’s mission to create and disseminate knowledge.