Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo of The Middlebury Campus
Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

Envisioning Middlebury's Library of Today, Tomorrow

Author: Barbara Doyle-Wilch

I need your help in developing the "library of the future." Planning for the library of 2004 often feels like a crystal ball exercise. The physical structure of the new library is only half of the job; what goes on inside the library is the other. Both require seeing into the future and trying to anticipate what research will look like in the next 50 years.

The planners of the new library are envisioning a place that is welcoming, comfortable and exciting. Of course, our vast print collections will be readily accessible and computers for finding the appropriate resources both on-site and via the Internet will be located throughout the building. This will be a center for multimedia creation and viewing. Group study carrels and individual study carrels, all networked for computers, will be located on all three floors. A conference room for interactive seminars will bring scholars from all over the world into the library. There will be several classrooms and seminar rooms with flexible seating, each fully wired for any sort of projection and computer use. A 24-hour café is planned, as well, for taking a break or checking your e-mail.

We imagine a research process that combines graphics, sound and text. Take, for example, a student studying Martin Luther King Jr. This student will come into the library and stop at the reference desk for assistance in finding both audio and visual examples of Dr. King's speeches. The student will need some primary documents (newspapers, manuscripts or diaries available in digitized format on the Web) describing the world at that time. Our student will also be looking for some secondary sources describing the impact of Dr. King's speeches. Finally he/she will seek the expertise of a multimedia specialist to help create a "paper" that combines all the elements of this research project.

This is just one scenario for the library of 2004. As we dream about how the technology could and will be used, questions are raised about how we can link the capabilities of the library with the rest of the campus and beyond. How will the commons connect with the research processes that will be available in the library? What kind of instructional programs should we offer to enable our students and faculty to take full advantage of these technologies – classes, seminars, workshops or consultations with appropriate subject specialists?

In the physical planning of the library, we are also seeking your views. Do you like to study in the library alone or with groups? In individual study carrels or at large tables? What kinds of seating are most comfortable for you – do you like chairs or sofas? Will you be spending long hours in the library and if so, what should we be offering at the café?

What do you see as the library of the future? Let us hear your ideas. Look into your crystal ball and share with us what you see. The plans for the new library are located in the lobby of Starr Library, and there is a comment book available for your thoughts and suggestions. Or e-mail at

Barbara Doyle-Wilch is the Dean of Library and Information Services at the College.