Curated Futures Project

A Third Library is Possible

About the Project

A Third Library is Possible

As the third installment of the CLIR Collaborative Writing Project, this year we introduce the Curated Futures Project as the first of a series of collaborations that respond to the theme “A Third Library is Possible.” The Curated Futures Project serves as a guide for GLAM professionals to navigate beyond discussions of decolonizing our institutions to begin taking practical steps to enact change. These collaborative projects not only speculate about aligning academic libraries with social impact, but they also provide demonstrative examples in a variety of mediums including podcast conversations, gamifying digital humanities, and mapping visualizations.


The following are abstracts for each contribution

Geographies of Engaged Digital Scholarship: Remaking space and place in the academic library

An academic library cannot meaningfully serve its campus without also serving the range of communities within which faculty, staff, and students are embedded. Just as lines on maps are cartographic simplifications of reality, the distinctions we make between the university and surrounding communities are arbitrary and constructed. Though not unproblematic, the tools of GIS and digital scholarship more broadly make it possible for library workers to contribute directly to projects that transcend this campus-community border. We call upon academic librarians to use the tools at their disposal to more meaningfully engage with community-engaged and justice-minded projects. Deliberately disrupting the firm distinction between campus and community is one step in a longer process that is not clearly mapped, and we wish to provide a variety of starting points to consider.

FLAME - Future Libraries, Archives, and Museums in Excavation - A Podcast Series

Our podcast series holds the microphone up to archivists, scholars, and museum staff who work with collections pertaining to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) communities. Thus far, two paths have emerged: (1) reinterpreting archival, library, and museum content that comes from predominantly White colonial perspectives; and (2) introducing underrepresented BIPOC narratives into the mainstream. Such efforts have already been evolving in local BIPOC libraries, archives, and museums in neighborhoods and in tribal communities. In speaking with BIPOC scholars, archivists, and librarians and non-BIPOC allies, many have recommended establishing contact with the communities to whom the collections belong, making sure that they have gained full agency over the life cycle and uses of the materials that pertain to BIPOC cultures and points of view. We aim to understand how their archival practices provide more agency for BIPOC communities, differing from those practiced by the “first” university systems. In short, our work sits at the juncture of both a redefinition (especially for predominantly White institutions) and a continually strengthened construction of archives (for BIPOC communities).

Game-Based Design for Inclusive and Accessible Digital Exhibits

Imagining the future of libraries and especially of digital exhibits cannot be completed without exploring the role games can play in the future of collection curation. Besides their popularity, games facilitate and inform our understanding through interactive engagement and have been shown to serve as alternative modes for designing learning experiences and environments. We adopt such a perspective as we look into the ways gaming can inform the design of digital exhibits and help make digital collections more accessible and inclusive to a wider audience.

Visualizing Scholarship as Social Change

This visualization and accompanying short essay articulate both a broad definition of what constitutes scholarship as social change (any knowledge production that has a goal of exploring, articulating, and intervening in inequities and injustices, past and present) as well as projects that helped inspire the contributions of to the Curated Futures Project (Gamifying Digital Collections, Remaking Space and Place, FLAME, and The Third Library and the Commons). It also invites readers to submit their own examples of projects that they think embody “scholarship as social change.”

The Third Library and the Commons

The idea of the “commons” is often invoked in discussions of the academic library’s future, but these references are usually vague and rhetorical. What exactly does it mean for the library to be organized as a commons, and what might such a library look like? Does the concept of the commons offer a useful lens for identifying the library’s injustices or shortcomings? How might we draw on the concept of the commons to see beyond the horizon of the contemporary library, toward a “Third Library” that truly advances decolonial and democratic ends?

This essay engages with such questions and explores how the constituent elements of the academic library—its knowledge assets, its workers, and its physical spaces—might be reoriented toward the commons. It argues that such an orientation might facilitate the emergence of a Third Library that is able to organize resistance to contemporary capitalism’s impetus toward the privatization and enclosure of knowledge, and to help recover a democratic conception of knowledge as a public good.


This publication has been created through the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Postdoctoral Fellowship Program with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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