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NWA funding for Cynthia Liem and the Future Libraries Lab

8 July 2020 – The project proposal ‘Recommender requirements for pluriform perspectives in local public
libraries’ of Cynthia Liem, written in the context of the Future Libraries Lab, and including the
National Library of The Netherlands as a project partners, has been one of the 40 successful
projects that were granted EUR 50,000 of funding under the NWO ‘Idea Generator’ 2019-2 call.
This call is part of NWO’s funding schemes of the Nationale Wetenschapsagenda (NWA): the
national science agenda. NWA Idea Generator projects should distinguish themselves by their
innovative character and possible impact on society.
In our increasingly digital information society, the role of the local public library is changing.
While it may not be the primary source for knowledge anymore, it still is a valued, accessible
social gathering space for demographically and socio-culturally diverse local communities. It
also still is a place where people can encounter new literature in physical and digital form.
Public libraries do not have a commercial mission. As such, they can afford confronting citizens
with a more pluriform and polyvocal set of perspectives, opinions and expressions than
naturally would be encountered on their own. Being confronted with such contrasting perspectives may not necessarily be pleasant.

However, as libraries are not as strongly driven
by short-time engagement optimization as their commercial counterparts, and as they offer
trustable, relatable and local in-person support, they may be able to get citizens out of their
comfort zones in more nuanced and tolerable ways than would be possible through commercial
online services.
Several public libraries are interested in novel recommender systems technologies, that can
offer pluriform and contrasting perspectives to users, and offer society a more diverse and
inclusive information environment. Such recommenders are delicate to build. Before doing this, it is important to get clear what users would naturally be (un)willing to see, and to concretize what diversity and inclusion would mean in the context of library collection curation and personalized filtering, and within the ultimate technical framework of a recommender system.
Dr Liem will tackle these questions through a 12-month research and co-creation project,
supported by assistants in the Future Libraries Lab. Capitalizing on recently centralized and
digitized data on library collections, consumers and loan records, we will seek to understand
past and current consumer behavior (which has not yet been affected by digital
recommenders), and use this understanding to engage with local professionals and citizens, to
jointly establish requirements and success criteria for the desired future library recommenders.

From bibliobuses to community librarians

7 April 2020 –The system of public libraries has been under pressure for years. The corona crisis once again shows what value libraries have for municipalities and individuals. “Instead of hoarding toilet paper, I am hoarding books.’

KB and TU Delft launch Future Libraries Lab

6 February 2020 – Today, the KB and Delft University of Technology are launching the Future Libraries Lab, where designers and computer scientists think about the library of the future. What new forms of services can libraries develop? And how can they continue to offer their physical and digital collections in innovative ways? These and other topics are being researched in the Lab.