Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Future Library Service

We interrupt this catalogue of grief with a foray into a different kind of underworld and a conversation with a stranger.

Entering the underpass from Flinders Street, two besuited 30-somethings rushed past, animated, slightly mocking, speaking sentences with capitals and exclamation marks.

“Did you see Her!”


“What was she Doing!?”

(More laughter)


I guessed that meant there was something happening in the vitrine.

And also guessed these guys weren’t art goers.

In the few seconds it took for me to descend and the hapless blokes to ascend, I knew I was in for a treat.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

In the beautiful curved corner display case, at the Platform Contemporary Art Space that doubles as a commuter underpass, sat a woman reading a book in a beautifully constructed installation.

Used books line a shelf, clear plastic toothbrushes twinkle like a deconstructed chandelier, a classic green library lamp glows warmly and modern construction materials lurk beneath a veneer of exquisite mock parquetry.

The Future Library Service is open and the librarian is in.

After a lovely chat with the artist, Sonja Hornung, the intent behind the piece opened before me. The accompanying website goes way beyond the usual artist statement. While The Future Library Service is a collection of 100 books about the future from the past, the intricately documented digital catalogue is also a joy to explore.

The cataloguing is a librarian’s wet dream, with extensive annotations and a numbering system that goes way beyond Dewey’s wildest expectations.

How does your call-number system work?

The books are physically ordered on the basis of how yellow their pages are, beginning with very white and moving through to very yellow. They are then allocated a call number beginning with the Dewey Decimal prefix 125. Formally, this number is now unassigned, but used to be assigned to books catalogued under “infinity”.

The books are also available for loan.

Don’t be intimidated. The exhibition is only on until the 29th June.  Pop in, this may be your last chance to borrow a book, with a stamp instead of a beep.

Explore the Future Library Service.

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