Library 2.0

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Has anyone in this group by chance ever read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash? Right that was 15 years ago, even before the web. Neal was in that group of writers who were labeled "cyberpunk" or "cyberpunk literature". Anyway, as I am getting better at getting around in this group and looking at the "Second life" site, I am amazed at the similarities between the "cyber" world that Neal described and what is emerging now. What is also amazing is how he describes the future library---I won't get into it here, you'll have to read the book! But clearly he had a vision of library services that I am seening unfolding in this group and others. When I was library directing I would always refer to Neal's book to see what was ahead.

Larry Greenwood

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Sadly I haven't gotten around to reading Neal Stephenson's book. Many of my friends recommend Snow Crash, but I just haven't gotten around to it. You post did remind me of this flickr set here which are photos of places in London that were also in Neal Stephenson's "System of the World" at the Tower of London. He has photos of various locations from the book, complete with notes. I thought it was a neat example of how Flickr can be used for literary subjects.
I always felt that part of the reason that Gibson and others were able to "predict" the future was that a lot of computer scientists would mimic the books they'd read, movies they'd seen, and TV shows they liked.

However, I think this is much less true today than when the Net and Web were newer... I just remember that in the early days of the Net, frequently the things people would develop would be direct inspirations from Star Trek, Gibson, etc. If a Sci Fi author wrote a vision that was appealing, it seemed like a swarm of programmers would jump on it and try to make it reality.

While that's kind of cool, I like that Web 2.0 is putting creativity back in the hands of non programmer types, and now the results are much more diverse and surprising (and frequently, even more interesting).
Five years ahead? I'll take a stab at it (though I think these have mostly been said elsewhere)... Video- and Screen-casts will be the way Library Instruction is done -- though it will be dying out and Second Life (or it's successors) will be where "classroom instruction" will take place for many online classes. (SL, or successors, will incorporate voice and other sounds somewhen before that).

Regarding where libraries will be? That's a bit harder for me to see; we'll have our fingers in the pies above, and we'll have our "legacy users" for sure *but* will we have "lost" a generation of potential supporters to the gee-whiz-bang online services sprouting up everywhere?
I don't think that these science fiction writers see into the future, nor do they just guess. One of my favorite Robert A. Heinlein novels was "Have Space Suit - Will Travel" about a young boy who builds himself a spacesuit and goes out on adventures in outer space. This was before an space suits actually existed. The author, as an engineer, just happened to see the current technology in pressure suits and applied the same design principles, but for a vacuum environment. He also goes on to include details about how a person in a space suit would take meals and water, or how the person would navigate on the moon. I always found it interesting that Heinlein's description of his fictional space suit helped NASA design a real spacesuit a few years later.

In the end, Sci-Fi is about an educated guess of the potential of current technologies available to the author at the time. Oh and it may depend on the author sees a dystopian or utopian future.
Snow Crash was practically required reading when I was in library school (97-98) , but I had already read it, and it was one of the things that initially made me go in the direction of libraries.
You may already have seen this article, but just in case . . .

Agent of civility: The librarian in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash
Tim Blackmore
Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education
Volume 4, Issue 4 (November 2004)
© University of Toronto Press
I could be wrong but my assumption was that these empty SL libraries are more like placeholders while librarians figure out our role is in all of this. You're right of course; 'what happens in our virtual space' is more important than 'what our virtual spaces look like'.

I too like to read Science Fiction/Speculative Fiction for hints of what might be.
BTW I was always saddened that the librarian in Snow Crash was software (oops, hope that isn't a spoiler for anyone who hasn't read the book).,
Denyse's assumption is correct, at least in terms of the "branch" library I
maintain in Second Life. I'm not sure if the University of Montevallo will
ever take advantage of the instructional potential that Second Life offers,
but I find being in Second Life to be rewarding, personally and
professionally. It's been wonderful to be able to interact with librarians
from around the world (including some on my friends here), and I
have learned a lot about new information technologies.

What I've found in hanging out in my own SL library, in spending time in
the main library, and in wandering around the rest of SL with the tag
Librarian above my head, is that SL residents need help and that they
find librarians to be a good source of it. Most of the questions relate to
Second Life, but I've also gotten into some interesting discussions about
books, movies, music, etc., that end up being more about real life.
Denyse, most of the questions I've answered have come becase I ran into
someone somewhere in SL when I had my "librarian" tag showing. I don't
spend regular hours in my SL library, and there aren't any Montevallo
faculty working in SL yet. So I go exploring.

Long before Snow Crash, there was the Tracy/Hepburn film Desk Set.
Librarian as helpful person trumps library as software. While I think our
patrons value a lot about libraries as physical places, what I see in
real life and Second Life is that they also place a lot of value on finding
a person who will be helpful, non-judgemental, friendly, and reasonably
Last year, I read Vernor Vinge's Rainbow's End, another interesting piece of
science fiction. In it, the UC San Diego Library is being consumed by a large
corporate entity that is "digitizing" all the books by shredding them and then
collecting all the shredded bits. The library that remains is given over to one
role-playing group, but a battle arises between that group and another.
Meanwhile, behind the scense, shadowy figures are using this scenario to create
havoc. I found the book quite interesting, particularly Vinge's vision of technology
becoming something we wear so that we can constantly be interacting with it.
I've since read his novella True Names, written much earlier, but describing
virtual worlds with the uncanny foresight that makes me keep reading science
I'm a huge fan of Cryptonomicon but haven't read Snow Crash yet...didn't know there were library references! Still working my way through the Baroque Cycle.

I am currently reading The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. One of the main characters (the time traveler) is a librarian and there are lots of fun library references. One of the characters calls him "Library Boy" which I think it where Michel-Adrien Sheppard got his blog name from:

Although it's always interesting and exciting when we see something in speculative fiction that is later reflected in the real world, it's quite possible to read a little too much into it... that is, it's easy to see things as prescient through retrospection.

Primarily, writers like Gibson (I haven't read Stephenson, although he has been recommended an incredible amount of times...) are working in a field where almost anything is acceptable, if you can make it sound plausible, so even more than most authors, they are ideas people... and anyone here who writes fiction will know that once you come up with the cool idea, you have to work out a way that it fits into the "world" you're creating... often, I think these key moments of invention that we're talking about are almost created as a by-product of that. Further, for every brilliant idea that a scifi author comes up with that seems to come true, there are thousands that don't.

Another commenter has suggested that a reason technology follows fiction is because technologists enjoy fiction, and I think this probably IS as true today as it ever was... the people who did all the book learning, and studied all the practical sciences, have a lot of ideas by themselves, but they don't get to dedicate themselves to pure fantasy flying the way authors do, and so crazy but potentially possible ideas may always occur to them from reading a book. And sometimes, because of this dedication to imagination, the authors probably come up with the idea because it just makes sense; so in fact, they're not inventing a new concept... they're just getting to the most logical conclusions first.

Having said all that, you would probably be interested in Warren Ellis, if you haven't already come across him. He is primarily a comic writer, with an incredibly subsersive and anarchic counter-culture streak, but he is VERY concerned with THE FUTURE, and he's smart, too. Although he has a strong web presence at and elsewhere, I'd recommend picking up the first TPB of Transmetropolitan at your earliest convenience instead of diving into his web persona... like many UK writers weaned on 2000ad, he's set his fiction in the distant future in this case, but it's so that he can get to the ideas without worrying too much about the science. And his journalist protagonist, Spider Jerusalem, works in a media milieu and with tools that just make so much sense that many of them seem "just around the corner".

(The best science fiction novel I have ever read, incidentally, is Maria Doria Russel's The Sparrow... I can recommend it unreservedly to anyone. It is one of the richest, and most insightful pieces of writing I have seen.)


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