This Is the Future of Libraries in the Digital Age

This Is the Future of Libraries in the Digital Age

When downtown Seattle’s new public library opened in 2004, it was heralded as a model for the new millennium, fully embracing both the digital era and the spirit of civic ennoblement. And while books—shelved in a four-floor spiral connected by gently sloping ramps—were given pride of place in the design, by OMA’s Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus, many assumed that physical tomes would soon go the way of the card catalog and the cassette tape.

More than a decade later, however, demand for the printed word—and its place in libraries—remain strong.
 “The idea that everyone will read everything on screens has not proven to be true,” said Meredith TenHoor, an architectural historian and associate professor at Pratt Institute School of Architecture. “There is a place for old-fashioned paper books. The publishing industry knows this, and it is reflected in high-quality library design, too.”

The most innovative library designs, she added, are those that “don’t just conceive of books as sources of information but of the social and intellectual practices that develop around reading and research.”

Risa Honig, vice president of capital planning at The New York Public Library (NYPL . . .

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