True to his nature, Lanier answers questions across the grain:
What do you think is coming for publishing generally speaking and the idea of words on a page? How can information managers in a library environment either help influence public opinion or help content creators?
If I were a librarian now, I would attempt to conceive of the library from an experiential point of view. I would say, “What is the experience that is missing from the agora, from the world out there, from the private home? What is the experience that's missing that we need in order to be human, in order to think, in order to consider?”
My own take on it would be that information availability in some sort of raw form is not a problem anymore, because of the Internet. It is for some people, as you well know; not everyone has Internet access or equal Internet access. Acknowledging all of that and just speaking in a very crude way that ignores [the digital divide] for a moment...if somebody has broadband at home, if they're affluent, it doesn't mean they have all they need. They still, in many cases, lack the time and space really to think in their lives. And, gradually, libraries will take on the role in civilization of providing that space. I don't think the home will provide it anymore.
The thinking space where people can get to know themselves and get their ideas cogently arranged or what have you
So the cliché of the librarian going, “Shhhhhhhhh....”
Oh, are we tired of that!
I'm sure you are, but, in a way, that is going to become something that is so desperately desired that I have a feeling there will be a new life for the library in which it provides the thinking space for civilization.
For instance, my book.... At one point I had the most overdue book contract in New York publishing. It's over 20 years or something. And the reason is I have such a crazy, busy life, and I have so many things going on. I was in London some years…ago and a friend of mine, who's a writer, said, “The only way you're going to write a book is in a library” and sat me down in this wonderful, big library [the British Library].
It has amazing incunabula suspended in this glass cube inside the foyer, and you can see scholars wandering around inside the stacks. I sat down in that place and actually had the quietude to...write a book. So this book wouldn't exist without a library.
We must have 10,000 or 15,000 books in our house. We have one room that's…basically a mountain of books. It's become impassable. So we have no lack of access to material, and yet I didn't have access to my own head until I went to the library. So to me there's clearly something missing in the formula that we're developing for civilization.... I think the library will naturally come to fill that gap. Making the library into some sort of alternate Facebook access point is exactly the wrong way to achieve that.