I was recently asked to be part of the planning committee for the new library, set to break ground in 2010-2011. I’m pretty excited about it. Geeked would be a better word, perhaps. In any case, a big chunk of my dissertation speculated on the future of libraries, so it’s fun to be involved in planning one. I’ve been thinking about the library a bit–whether we can still define it as a physical building, for instance, or if the emergence of the web has forever changed this notion. I’m a believer that it has–and that a library is more of an idea than a concrete building.

The new library, I think, should be built on the theory that information is collaboratively constructed and very dynamic in nature, expanding at a breath-taking pace. This is not to say that there is no space in a library for print books. The opposite is actually true: digitizing information clears space for works that are unavailable or unpalatable in digital format.

I would like to see our library interface operate in a way that acknowledges the social and dynamic nature of information. I think the social network offers a pretty compelling platform for this to happen, and I’ve sketched out a prototype of what this might look like, included below. I usually ask for feedback in my blog posts, but this time it is especially important that you tell me what you think of the model below. Does it make sense to you?

Update: My colleague Rachel Anderson makes the excellent observation that faculty could use this kind of system for course readings, which would then be made available to students in the class. I also think that users could annotate the sources they found (think Amazon reviews), since one big part of the research process is discerning the quality sources from the less helpful ones. Users (faculty included) would be able to supply short annotations of the sources they discover.

Update: Another idea is that one widget could be “my courses,” where students could access resources created by their professors. A link to Blackboard would also work here.