Will libraries evolve by 2020?

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When was the last time you went to a library? If you have the standard gadgets that many households in the country have, you might not ever need to go to the library at all. In the next half decade, all of that could change.

I love looking at old pictures of libraries. I’m always fascinated by what was going on inside, how it was arranged, what the people looked like and what they were doing, the kinds of tools and gizmos and furnishings they had.

For many years, I’ve used in talks pictures of libraries from the early 20th century: people reading at sturdy tables, bookshelf-lined walls, the occasional forbidding-looking librarian (yes, with a bun) overseeing her domain. These pictures are generally pretty familiar; slap a laptop on one of those tables, and it might not look all that different from what you could see today. Which is, at once, charming and a little scary. I’m all for tradition, but if we were in health care, would we find wistful appeal in the prospect of working in an operating room circa 1913?

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