The Future of Libraries in the Digital Age
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Because people so often identify libraries with physical books, new digital information and communication technologies have spawned speculation whether libraries, as such, are obsolete. Libraries, however, predate books, and, in their modern form, libraries of all kinds – public libraries, research libraries, school libraries, professional libraries – still typically stand at the informational heart of the communities they serve. Digitization creates new challenges and opportunities, however, forcing libraries to both take on new roles and perform traditional roles in new ways.
The Future of Libraries in the Digital Age is an interdisciplinary exploration of the emerging roles of libraries, as well as the roles of law and public policy in shaping libraries’ missions. Law is especially salient in connection with reader privacy and copyright. On Thursday night, March 24, a panel of local librarians will discuss the challenges their institutions face, in conversation with Jeffrey T. Schnapp, Professor of Romance Languages & Literature and Comparative Literature at Harvard University, and a member of the teaching faculty in the Department of Architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Professor Schnapp has been deeply involved in researching the history of libraries and in imagining the implication of libraries’ new roles for the design of libraries as physical space.
On Friday, March 25, panels of experts will discuss the roles of libraries, the implications of digitization for privacy and copyright, and the overall question whether there is a future for bricks-and-mortar libraries. Professor Schnapp will offer keynote remarks, as well as presenting two short films: Alain Resnais’s famous portrait of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Toute la mémoire du monde (1956), and Cold Storage, a web documentary Professor Schnapp helped to create, which offers a rumination on the state of libraries a half century after Resnais.
The Future of Libraries in the Digital Age is co-sponsored by the Moritz College of Law, the Center for Interdisciplinary Law and Policy Studies, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.