the smell of libraries

The future is the paperless office.

Actually, we have a project in our institute, which is exactly about this. The Virtual Office of the Future. Paperless office. So no libraries needed anymore?

But libraries where great, I will tell you why. In my office room, there is a shelf with old File Folders, hundreds of documents and contracts are there. My office (which I share with Lars) has been the secretary office a while ago, and they left-over these folders here. I never saw anybody come here to get them, so the contents is probably dead. A look at the backs of the folders shows titles like “project proposals” or the like.

Imagine the time when these where still at a central place: Project reports, project proposals, accounting stuff. And another place has been the library, where all the books where – “PHP cookbook”, “Stroustroup”, “Peopleware”, etc… . Libraries have this special smell, it is not generated by the books, it is the sweat of anticipation of finding a book. It also smells when you peek over the shoulder of other people in public libraries, to see what they read (to get inspired to lend the book when they returned it).For thousands of years we had to walk there to get to the information. This means, you meet people there, that search for the same stuff as you do. These people are interested in the same stuff as you. You may like to meet them.

Now imagine a virtual office of the future, paperless, with an Organisational Memory. Today, you just browse a website. Not in the future: I would like to walk to the library. I want to walk to our shared file folders on the file server. I want to see the other people that are commiting to CVS at the moment. I want to see who browses at this blog at the moment, I want to see who else browses at planetrdf.

That would be a nice facet of cyberspace. The smell of libraries.