The Future is…

In “As We May Think” Bush puts forth a vision of the future that reminds me of the old cartoons about the “Homes of Tomorrow”. As I child I laughed watching the fantastic things homes were supposed to be doing by the time, some of which had come to pass in their own way and others that I have seen made possible. A robot to vacuum my floor once seemed like a far-fetched idea, now it is common; a roomba can vacuum for me while a scuba can scrub my floor. This advancement of life is one of Bush’s key points, that now is the time for scientist to put away their destruction and to turn towards advancement. He encourages remaining as open as they are during war, rather than shutting themselves up and hoarding their ideas once more. This focus on transition makes sense given that he is writing in 1945, at the conclusion of a second world war. All eyes are on the destructive potential of science, which is terrible for him as a scientist, and thus he reminds people that the places where destruction is the place where advancement takes place and that they can calm down.

Borges’s vision on the other hand is a utopian like setting that is reminiscent of the perfection that has been lost in most dystopian novels. A seemingly limitless space comprised of many part that are all connected, though navigated by only a select few and even then there is still some peril involved. Perhaps what makes his piece seem like the base for a dystopian novel is that it is a rather general and yet limitless vision.

Together the two look forward with a sharp accuracy, though one wrote decades before the other. The similarities are see in the way they both take note of the barriers and flaws that stand in the way of progress. Nothing is perfect. There will always be barriers whether they are physical like a closed door or figurative like a closed mind. They both discuss the divides created by specializations of jobs and the difficulty that results in for people trying to access information. Overwhelming amounts of information and content is another cornerstone of their discussions, we overwhelm ourselves and then wonder how we came to that point.

So what can librarians take from this? In the digital age librarians are changing. We need to move away from the librarians of the past and look towards the future together as a group to overcome the many barriers facing our profession. We need to turn from the gatekeepers of old to the guides who can point out the sights as they teach patrons how to navigate through the library spaces, physical and digital. We must move forward with open minds sharing ideas across the distances to improve the library experience for all patrons. The future is always going to be there and we need to be ready to face it together.

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