Erik Vlemmix

The emergence of the Internet has deeply influenced the way we consume information. Assuming that in the digital age physical collections of books have lost much of their relevance to society, public libraries are forced to downsize or they close down completely. This ties in with a broader context of ongoing privatization and commercialization of the public domain, putting the free and independent access to public knowledge at risk.

We can observe that commercial providers of information restrict and prioritize their supply based on financial goals instead of the public interest. Public libraries on the other hand become ever more dependent on digital search systems to find books in networked collections. Because the current search systems are primarily goal-oriented, issues arise concerning the way we can find books.

By the use of emerging technologies, combined with the reinstatement of expert librarians, it is possible to develop associative and explorative search systems that can create new opportunities. Recommendations can then serve a public interest instead of a financial one. By prioritizing information based on the quality of books rather than their market value, such a system could differentiate itself from existing commercial systems, especially when it addresses not only digital sources, but physical library collections as well. It could also help create a possible future for public libraries as an information provider that supports citizens and gives them access to society and its institutions through the sharing of knowledge, education and culture.

Graduation project, 2015