Inspiration Architecture: the future of libraries, #il2013 keynote by Peter Morville

Internet Librarian, Oct. 28

Inspiration Architecture: The future of libraries

Peter Morville, author of Ambient Findability (also Info Architecture: polar bear book)

Fell in love with wife and internet: wife has only improved.

Lost our newspaper, largest bookstore, lost a lot privacy, more commercial.

Topics are “intertwingled.”

Information architecture isn’t enough, but it’s still important.

Arguing about what they do (hashtag #dtdt, defining the damned thing)

Jorge Arango: “nodes and links to present environments for understanding.”

Told LC that its web presence resembled the Winchester Mystery House: hundreds of web sites with different brands.  Users had no idea which to use.

Overall strategy, wireframes.  Faceted navigation with intelligent defaults (such as online items available outside the library).

Search is a complex, adaptive system with feedback loops.

Portals / Search / Objects

As web sites become more critical, people and politics become more important.

Structures and relationships more important than individual web pages.  Non-linear relationships require a visual language, systems thinking.  Planners, organizers, and bridge builders.  “Architects of understanding.”

Education too often isn’t aimed at understanding.  It’s based on industrialization, mass producing students.

Khan Academy, MOOCs are attempting to reform education.

We have technologists who don’t understand education and educators who don’t understand technology.

“Making Learning Whole.”  It’s like batting practice without knowing the whole game.  Why?

Flipping the classroom: lecture at home, homework in class.

Blackboard, Moodle.

Harvard: Hundreds of library databases.  Students are forced to guess which database has their answer before they start.  What do they do?  They go to Google.

Dangerous reliance on Google.  Students are going into the workplace without really knowing how to search.  They are missing things.

Libraries are trying to be more like Google: the single searchbox.

Federated search approach: “bento box” results page.

Another idea (Morville’s preferred approach): aggregated search with faceted navigation.  People get this, because this is how they shop.  Enter some keywords, get some results, but also a custom map suggesting some simple next steps.  Users, in effect, doing what we used to do as complex boolean queries.

 Single searchbox: if you build it, they will come.  Encourages students to dig deeper.

Course web page: embeddable search widget.

“The Corporate Culture Survival Guide” by Schein.

MOOCs might crack the single searchbox problem.

Information literacy gulch: makes income inequality, quality of life inequality worse.

We have more information, but not necessarily making better decisions.  In medicine, we have unnecessary operations.

Cultural blinders: people don’t want to believe things that conflict with their previous beliefs.

Calvin Mooers: people may not want information.

How do we effect change when information may not be enough?

“Nudge” – using architecture and environment to change people’s behavior.

Online: when results are sorted with “featured” items first.

“The Power of Habit” – willpower is the single more important “keystone habit.”  Exercise builds willpower.

Alcoa CEO improved safety by pushing for changing habits (after a worker died).

Keystone: term from architecture.  Keystone species in ecology.  The library is the keystone of culture.

National parks are about preserving what we already have.  The future of libraries is about creating something new.  We need not only information architects, but also “inspiration architects.”

Updated to add: slides available at

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