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Sunday, September 14, 2014

One Thousand Trees for One Hundred Books: The Future Library Project

Somewhere in Norway, trees are being uprooted and cleared out, only to make room for one thousand new trees. In one hundred years, those trees will be the source of paper for one hundred new books.

            Katie Paterson has launched this art project, Future Library, with its mission being “to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future." Overall, the details of the project remain somewhat vague, although this seems intentional. One author per year, for the next one hundred years, will contribute to the project. And while the authors and their works' titles will be on display at the Oslo Public Library in Norway, all manuscripts will be locked away in a secret room (or something like that), until the year 2114. The Future Library will include works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, with no length minimums or maximums. 
            The first contributing author announced was Margaret Atwood. In an interview regarding the project, Atwood suggests that this project is a sort of time capsule, while also suggesting that it will do only good for the future of humanity. Her book will be ready for the aforementioned secret room in May 2015.
            There are many aspects of this project that are completely innovative and intriguing. Even if print is “dead” by 2114, we can still hope for these new books to be published – all one hundred of them! I wonder, though, if the writers contributing to this project will be writing to future generations – will this idea of the future be at the forefront of their minds, and will they write differently because of it? The authors will obviously be aware of the fact that they will be read – even if it’s only one of their works – one hundred years in the future. I would assume this would feel quite nice… a guaranteed longevity of sorts. What will readers think of these books, once they’re made available? In one hundred years, will readers care that these pieces of literature have been conceptualized with them in mind, a sort of dedication to their generation?
            If nothing else, the project is refreshingly optimistic. Even with the “unknown future” in mind, there is still a future being assumed, and everyone involved in the project is hopeful that people will want to read these books. I wonder who else will join the project, believing in future readers as Paterson and Atwood do. My immediate response is to be jealous of those people who will be alive and reading these books in one hundred years; the fear of missing out is ever-present. My more thoughtful response is simply to be glad for the project’s guarantee of print publishing in 2114. 

 -Lauren Mickey

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