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The transformative changes enabled by digital technologies have been affecting society at large, with a profound impact on the relationship between people and information. This change requires libraries to rethink their role of curators and keepers of knowledge, and of facilitators of education and dialogue.

What role can innovative technologies like Artificial Intelligence play in enabling, facilitating, and mediating access to knowledge? How can the design of library processes and programs be changed to accommodate the knowledge needs of a digital and diverse society?

The Future Libraries Lab is a Delft Design Lab that takes a multidisciplinary approach, combining knowledge and expertise in design, computer science, and digital libraries. The lab facilitates the interaction between students, researchers, and practitioners to foster the development of research and innovation activities that have the ambition to imagine and shape the future of libraries. To achieve this goal, and in collaboration with our partners, the Future Libraries Lab pursues a research agenda organized in three main themes: Knowledge Access and Discovery, Libraries for Individuals and Communities, and Diversity and Inclusion in Future Libraries.

 

Theme 1: Knowledge Access and Discovery

How can future libraries facilitate more serendipitous and adventurous exploration of physical and digital collections?

Modern libraries are transforming and complementing their physical print collections to digital collections. While this allows for efficient access based on a user’s specific information need, the current format of providing digital collections does not allow for easy exploration and serendipitous discovery. Physical collections still allowed to browse the shelves of a well-organized library to discover new and exciting content, but the exploration of digital library spaces is currently hindered by current access and discovery interfaces.

The goal of this research theme is to investigate how end-users could access and explore digital and physical collections with new, innovative, and playful exploration and discovery activities.

Theme 2: Libraries for Individuals and Communities

How can future libraries better serve the needs of their users, and of society at large?

The role that libraries are playing in society is changing. While technical progress allows them to expand their collections, it is often difficult for libraries to accommodate the needs of all their users, and to extend their audience beyond the predominant socio-economic groups. Libraries are transforming from places to borrow books, to public spaces for education and civic participation. The digitalization of knowledge allows new and personalized forms of content delivery (e.g. audiobooks, podcasts) and interaction (e.g., conversational agents, virtual reality), and it enables new approaches and tools for education, professionalization, and community building and engagement.

The goal of this research theme is to better understand the desires and needs of relevant public libraries’ users and to design engaging interactions and experiences for knowledge and skills development.

 

Diversity and Inclusion in Future Libraries

How can future libraries support and facilitate a just and inclusive society?

Our society is becoming increasingly diverse. Worrying trends such as marginalization, ideological polarisation, and an increasing wealth gap face the potential to profoundly disrupt public engagement, civil discourse, and, ultimately, our collective well-being. Libraries could play a transformative societal role, by embracing and promoting principles of inclusion in their collections, personnel, targeted audience, programs, and policies.

The goal of this research theme is to investigate what indicators of diversity are relevant for future libraries, and how such indicators could be used to design activities and experiences in libraries that are inclusive. With this, we seek to raise awareness on issues of diversity and inclusion in library contexts, and design novel physical and digital information access mechanisms that explicitly take these aspects into account.

Lab Director
Alessandro Bozzon

Prof. Alessandro Bozzon