By Corydon Ireland, Harvard Gazette 

Image courtesy of Michelle Jay

At the Frances Loeb Library, students from the course ADV-09125 were showing off the future of libraries.

The advanced seminar at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) — aka the “Library Test Kitchen” — just wrapped up its third fall offering on the course schedule. Like a few other classes across the University, its last act of the semester was not an exam but a public exhibit of student projects. ADV-09125 gets extra credit, however, since its final event on Dec. 13 was accompanied by wine, cheese, and fruit.

Near the wine table, guests lounged on the inviting turf-grass mounds of “Library Island.” A few steps away was the tabletop “Toy Library,” whose sign summed up the evening: “Let’s play library!”

Downstairs, Alexandra “Lexi” Bond, a M.Arch.-I student and a clarinetist studying the design future of concert halls, demonstrated the only project of the evening bolted into the ceiling. “Extra Leverage” is a contraption of metal, chain link, and canvas that allows a library-goer to hoist herself or himself to a high shelf. “I’m interested in dynamic models,” said Bond.

Call the creativity and fun a tradition. Last year’s student projects, including an inflatable Mylar reading room, were housed at the “Labrary,” a pop-up experimental library in Harvard Square. This year, the course’s key challenge was along the same lines: Look at libraries as they are; imagine what new devices or furnishings they might need — library machines, in the parlance of this fall’s iteration; then pitch and build fast prototypes. The course is a seminar about thinking up and making up new stuff, while shaking up normal conceptions of the traditional library.

“The motivation is to get students really looking into the library and its future,” said course co-instructor Jeff Goldenson, a designer at the Harvard Library Innovation Lab. He said one aim of the course was “fun” and another was “interestingness.”

Helping Goldenson this fall were Loeb Library Director Ann Whiteside; Jessica Yurkofsky, MUP ’12; and Jeffrey Schnapp, director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Schnapp is also the author, with colleague Matthew Battles, of the forthcoming “The Library Beyond the Book.”

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