Home The Boundless Library: Explore the New York Public Library Collections on Your iPad

The Boundless Library: Explore the New York Public Library Collections on Your iPad

Yesterday Seth Godin posted an essay on his blog about “The Future of the Library,” a call-to-arms for librarians to envision their work less as a defender of a “warehouse for dead books” but as as a “producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario.” To paraphrase the response of librarians on blogs and on Twitter: “Yes, we know.” and “Yes, that’s what we do.”

One example of this “future of the library” that is indeed here now: the newly released New York Public Library app, available today via iTunes: Biblion: The Boundless Library. The app is a re-launch of the library’s Biblion journal, but in a format specifically designed for the tablet.

The first issue of Biblion launched today features items from the library’s collection from the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair — documents, images, essays, film and audio that let you explore the library’s stacks “opening up hidden parts of the collections and the myriad story lines they hold and preserve.” These stories include details about the exhibits on display (including a shocking Salvador Dali exhibit and the General Motors Futurama ride), about some of the debates before and after the event (including debates about innovation, abstract art and the Second World War), and about the “Fashion, Food and Famous Faces” that were there.

The app was designed in conjunction with Potion and it’s a joy to scroll through. While it does tout the ability to “explore the stacks,” the app certainly recognizes the library mission here isn’t about “dead books.” Rather the information is accessible and beautifully presented, taking full advantage of the touchscreen technology and the rotation of the tablet – the horizontal view lets you explore the collection visually, while the vertical view lets you read essays and thumb through imagery.

The New York Public Library plans other editions of Biblion that will open up other collections and programs. It is also planning a number of other apps as well, including one that’ll let patrons manage their accounts and access catalog information. Also on the docket, an app in conjunction with the Find the Future game, an overnight scavenger hunt facilitated by game theorist Jane McGonigal.

It’s all in celebration of the New York Public Library’s centennial, and certainly all a demonstration that it’s not just the future of the library that’ll look very different – it’s the present.

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