Library Test Kitchen III: Library Machines

The Library, up there with the US Postal Service, represents one of the most exciting institutional design opportunities out there. Library Test Kitchen is a semester long immersion in this storied institution. New directions ahead will be explored through class discussion, exposure to the larger library landscape, and rapid prototyping. Students with relevant thesis topics or outside interests are encouraged to use the seminar as a workshop to further develop and iterate on their current thinking. Our goal is to show the library world— not tell it— new futures with the projects we build.
Library Test Kitchen (LTK) is about making real things the world sees. In the Fall of 2012, LTK created LABRARY, a Pop-Up Library in the center of Harvard Square. It was an exciting public project, a truly collaborative endeavor which earned our seminar the ear and curious eye of the national library community. (For more past projects and press see
Library Test Kitchen III will refocus our attention on developing individual projects that we’ll call Library Machines.
“Library Machine – a mechanically or electronically operated device for performing library functions.”
Library Machines exist between industrial design and architecture. They may be built, coded, sewn, etc. They may be experiences, instruments, applications or efficiencies. They may be found in reading rooms, on the reference desk, deep in the stacks or outside the library altogether.
Each Library Machine will be designed for, and installed in, one of two sites: the Loeb Library at the Graduate School of Design or a new Pop-Up LABRARY truck that will be parked in one of Harvard’s common spaces.
By the end of the semester, Library Machines will be operational prototypes the public will experience. They’ll also be packaged — polished, named and documented with print-ready copy and photography — readily pitch-able to the media outlets who like us.
Coursework will be informed by seminar discussions touching on, among other topics: the history of US libraries; library architecture; contemporary case studies; forces of change; the evolution of library technologies; tools and assistive technologies; and the qualities and cultures of successful learning labs, makerspaces and other creative environments. Discussions will be supplemented by guest speakers and field trips (Harvard Depository, Museum of Science).
This seminar is open to graduate and undergraduate students from across Harvard and MIT. The course is taught by Ann Whiteside and Jeff Goldston, with Jeffrey Schnapp, and assisted by Jessica Yurkofsky.