Chair - Terry Moran
Well, Sam, thank you very much for that introduction to the conference and could I say how happy I am to be part of this 21st century symposium. The State Library of Victoria is to be congratulated for its efforts towards embracing the 21st century. And I think it’s essential that we re-imagine the role of libraries in the digital age. Having spent paradoxically so much money in Victoria on refashioning this library, the citizens of Victoria now really have to face up to a new prospect, that is that apart from how it looks physically, we now have to redesign the concept of what a library is in the 21st century. And the library itself I’m sure understands that relevant libraries of the future will be highly accessible collections of all forms of information. The library should be a gathering point for knowledge that is accessible for all Victorian’s and make innovative use of technology in this.
Now having said that, my job is to introduce Joel Kotkin and he has just participated in the creative cities, creative tourism conversation series at Fed Square supported by the Victorian Government and the City of Melbourne. He’s an internationally recognised authority on global economic, political and social trends and the author of some critically acclaimed books which you would know about, The City: a Global History; The New Geography: How the Digital Revolution is Reshaping the American Landscape and as Sam was discussing with him earlier Tribes: How Race, Religion and Identity Determine Success in the New Global Economy.
He’s a Senior Fellow of the New America Foundation and a senior advisor to the Planning Centre based at Costa Mesa, California. He lectures widely throughout the US, Europe and Asia and consults for economic development organisations, private companies, regions and cities. His consultancies have considered housing, immigration, demographic shift, urban and suburban visioning and regeneration in many areas including the San Fernando Valley, Phoenix and Los Angeles. His current projects include the future of mobility for the Reason Public Policy Institute, America’s long-term infrastructure for the New America Foundation and the history of American real estate. You could even find a few useful footnotes in terms of the last few years in Melbourne I think, Joel there.
Joel Kotkin is a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times and his articles are published in many other US newspapers including the Washington Post, the New Republic and the Wall Street Journal. He wrote the highly acclaimed column 'Grass Roots Business' in the New York Times for three years and continues on bringing forth ideas about new suburbanism, the need for affordable space and more recently the restoration of New Orleans.
Joel Kotkin is a recognised expert in the economic, social and political trends on cities and suburbs and what makes these locations grow and thrive and worth living in. For example, the solution to the problems of suburban sprawl is not to force people into the even denser cities but to improve the existing suburban reality and this is in fact quite a hot issue for Melbourne at the moment as you may or may not have been told, Joel, because of a plan called Melbourne 2030.
He sees the importance of public and open spaces as well as cultivating a community as the cornerstone discussions to have just about how we can make these living environments better for all. Joel will speak for a while and he’s agreed to take questions and we’ll come to that in a little while, but without saying any more could I now introduce Joel Kotkin to speak today on libraries and community.
Speaker - Joel Kotkin
Thank you very much. Firstly I wanted to say it’s a great pleasure to be here in Melbourne. I’ve been in Australia before, Australia is a place of enormous opportunity and tremendous potential. What’s exciting about this country, and I found this is my third trip here, is that Australia is not even in the earliest stage of its history and I think you know, as Mr Lipski is talking about, we have to think about this in the next 100, 200, 300 years and think about the foundation that you’re going to be presenting over time. Now the key issue for the future of Australia is going to be 'How do you husband and use knowledge?'. And that could be applied to the environment, it can be applied to industry, it can be applied to agriculture but the heart, the beating heart of a progressive and successful economic and social system lies right here in the library.
And so I’m always delighted to come to speak at libraries and I am myself a participant in the Los Angeles Public Library and if any city needed literacy it would be LA, since we inflict illiteracy on the rest of the world. So anyway I want to give you that sort of long-term perspective that Mr Lipski talked about. When I had the tour earlier I thought it was really interesting when people were, talked about what is here and one of the things that was pointed out was your collections of ancient books and that connection. It’s so important for new generations to understand this long-term connection that I sort of flash back to my days at the University of California, Berkley and doing some research at the Bancroft Library and having the pleasure of being able to write a paper using a first edition of a Spinoza Text from the 17th century and what a tremendous thing that is so even in a digital age the role of preservation of culture, the actual feel and touch of books still I think remains very important.
Now, if we talk about modern civilisations and ancient civilisations there is sort of one common thread and that was, Christopher Marlow sort of got it right, that there is no sin but ignorance. And I think what he was talking about is you absolutely must start off with a knowledge base, and those of us who are either in the writing field or scientist, we have to be very aware that we are always, to some extent, somewhat ignorant but as long as we’re aware of that we’re somewhat ignorant, I think that we can continue to make progress. Now if we think about the role of libraries, very early in the history of cities what made them emerge was their centres of knowledge. That was extraordinarily important and if you think about the competitive advantage of the very first cities it was the ability to store and retain information.
If you go back to Mesopotamia, they had the knowledge, for instance, of studying calendars, and the reason that calendars were so important, not just in the Middle East but elsewhere in India and in Mesoamerica, was the ability to know something about the seasons, when it was going to rain, when the river was high, when the river was low. This allowed for the development of the first civilisations, and one of the interesting things that William McNeil talks about is having this knowledge was extremely important because they were able to settle people in dry places. And interestingly enough, one of the reasons most great cities in early times were in dry places is disease festered too rapidly in wet places. The problem was dry places could not grow the crops to support a population and it was the knowledge that was accumulated and then you had to figure out a way of writing it down so that you would know from year to year and decade to decade that you would know when to plant, when to expect that the rivers would overflow and this is really the beginnings of the first cities. And the earliest writing of course was developed in Mesopotamia, and the alphabet later emerged.
Now the other big function of writing was quite mundane. It was keeping records. How much do you owe me, how many orders of this and it was of course those most supreme early capitalists the Phoenicians who developed the alphabet, which is of course a much more flexible way of transmitting information. So it was one of the great technological developments, the development of an alphabet which allowed for the storage of information.
Now libraries per se, I mean there were always sort of temple libraries and remember the inter-relationship of religion and knowledge is actually very strong. There’s always this tension and many times scholars will look at religion as nothing but ignorance but in reality without religion we probably would not have anything like what we have today. And so the first libraries were really collected in places that were sacred. Ur, Sumer and Harrapa in India where they would gather all the information. If it hadn’t been for that priestly class that would not have evolved. The first temples developed the first great collections of books and probably the one in Babylon was probably the first great library. So what you needed to do was, it was interesting, the knowledge that wa s embedded in the earliest writing was then the knowledge that was used to create the agricultural surplus which then allowed for the future accumulation of knowledge. So we have to think about this inter-relationship between knowledge and wealth creation that is really a lot older than the information age itself.
Now the distinction between science and religion was very, very blurred. But it was this very idea that knowledge was important that I think was at the root of urban civilisation and really at the root of progress. Now we sort of get many of our ideas originally from the Greeks and I thought this quote of Socrates is very interesting - 'that the country places and the trees don’t teach me anything and that people in the city do'. And it’s with the Greeks I think, when we started to see the separation of just religion and dogma and repetition with the beginnings of the importance of observation and of independent thought and so the Greeks obviously played a very important role.
And so we really talk about the first great knowledge revolution taking place in the Mediterranean around 600BC up to 500AD. And it was very much of a different kind. This is not to say what was being done in the rest of the world wasn’t important, but you began to have almost this inquisitive spirit towards knowledge and of course, as Mr Lipski was talking about, Alexandria became the first mega library. It really established Alexandria along with its great port as a sort of centre of the ancient world. But what I found is, in writing the history of cities, that Alexandria, which is the one we think of, actually there were many other large libraries around the entire Mediterranean world and of course Rome did the same thing. They tended to follow in the footsteps of the Greeks and they were recreated around the whole empire. So really an amazing accomplishment.
Now I’m a little bit prejudice towards Rome because of my background with Latin and so I was very excited by the fact that the Roman cities, one of the things they had was libraries. You know we always concentrate on the gladiators because you’ve got these nice looking guys in short skirts and they’re hacking away at each other and it makes for a good, I think an Australian movie star did very well with that.
But there was this whole other thing, which you know I guess is not quite so sexy to have some person with a candle looking over a manuscript in a dusty little room but this was as much a part of the Roman society. And when you think about the enormous engineering feats of the Romans it was this accumulation of knowledge that they were able to codify that really allowed them to develop this phenomenal infrastructure. I remember as a student reading Petronius and it was just so amazing, he would talk about Rome and walking around drunk on the streets of Rome and all that and it really reminded me of my youth in New York and it was just this amazing thing that at 100AD there was something that really was very much like what we have today and it was based on this knowledge that they had collected. And of course there was also these very large private collections which played an important role as well.
Now I want to talk a little bit about what’s known as the Dark Ages, and there’s a very interesting book which I’m doing a review on which is challenging some of our notions of what the Dark Ages actually were. And this is nothing to do with George Bush, which I think every Australian journalist has to make his shot, so I’m not going to participate in that. But the reality is this book by Rodney Stark, an American scholar, which challenges that the Dark Ages were not as dark as we think they are. Now we do know that the Dark Ages did bring the destruction of the libraries and that there was a growing intolerance in the Roman Empire and that certainly knowledge became dispersed and even lost. And certainly Professor Stark makes the argument, well the road system was really used predominantly for the transport of luxury goods so it was no great loss to most people but I think it was also the fact that there was information that was being transmitted along the road so I think there was still I think a fundamental problem. And there was a kind of, if you will, calling of the written word down to what was considered to be acceptable.
And this was a tremendous problem and I think it did make things regress in many ways. But Professor Stark also makes another point which I think is quite legitimate that even amidst this, what is happening in a funny way is that the very religious dogma and the community of dogma created by the church which was repressing was also providing a domicile for knowledge and that was in the monasteries. In the monasteries there was enormous, not only information stored, but the beginning of some very great innovations, and this book by Professor Stark is really worth looking into. And it talks about the armouring and the water wheels and the ploughs, the technological innovations that took place but in a kind of pastoral environment which was isolated from the cities, but nevertheless was continuing to develop the store house of knowledge. So it’s just interesting to start to look at the so called Dark Ages in a somewhat different light. But nevertheless certainly there were some steps backward.
Now, in my book (and again I always feel it’s really great that people pay you to learn stuff) I looked at the knowledge in Europe and it was certainly not progressing as fast and it was certainly not being diffused, the literacy rate certainly dropped. In China there was another knowledge revolution and I think this notion of the knowledge revolution as being something other than what happens in Europe is extremely important. The Confucion and other classics were stored at the palace libraries. Wealthy individuals collected books and there was some sort of technological progress. If you go to the Forbidden City and also to the Palace Museum in Taipei what you find is there was a lot of technological innovation, including one thing, they had a kind of seismograph - and if you live in California you’re very interested in seismographs - and they actually had them and the problem was that they would tend to make a technological development and keep it only for the royal family and for a very small group. It didn’t diffuse through. But there was this very dynamic period and really if you look at urban history there’s a period probably from about 400-500AD to about 1400 in which the centre of urban civilisation and learning had shifted out of the European sphere and some may say we may be headed for another period of this, hopefully it won’t take place. I think maybe we’re in a global information system but the idea of relative decline is certainly possible.
The one that I was very interested in learning about is the Islamic knowledge revolution. One of the interesting things about the recent cartoon incident is to find out from my friends who are Islamic scholars that there have been depictions of the Prophet Mohammad in oral traditions in the Islamic world and somehow we all go running around filled with terror that we’re being blasphemous when actually it’s a question of interpretation. The Arab cultures and then later the Islamic cultures of the 7th century on, have tremendous gaining first of the Greek and Roman knowledge and of course they seem to have been a little less selective about what they studied. They developed their own literature and of course there were influences from Persia and India and the great libraries - I always loved this title for the Baghdad Library, the House of Wisdom or the House of Learning in Cairo - and all over the Islamic world this tremendous accumulation of knowledge.
Of course if you look at some of the great philosophies that were developed at that time and of course, one influence for some of us would be [Mymodidis] and what’s created in that world. There’s a wonderful description that’s in the book about a nun going to Cordoba in the, it must have been about the 11th or 12th century, and was so upset because even young Christian boys were learning to write poetry in Arabic and that Arabic was assumed to be the language of culture. What happened in the Islamic world, and I think Bernard Lewis and others are infinitely better at describing it but in both the Islamic world and the Chinese world there seems to have been a decline that came on around the 1400, 1500s. Very interesting, because if you look at it the European societies were much, much poorer and fundamentally technologically backward up until about 1400.
But something internally happened inside these societies which had them turn inward, even geographically, they turned away from their port cities and back into the interior and of course you had the conquest of the great empires of the Middle East by invaders from the Steppes and eventually it seemed that it went into a long period of both decline in the sense of political power but also decline in the spirit of learning. And we’ve begun to see a return to a kind of orthodoxy and as we see today and I’ll discuss this later, the great challenge of the Islamic world isn’t the state of Israel or the influence of the West it’s the lack of information and a lack of openness to thought that I think is the greatest problem that they face internally and externally.
Now somewhere around 1100 the situation begins to change. Now I think there is this incubation process that’s taking place in the monasteries and just as the dioceses become the basis of the return of urbanism, you know it’s very interesting because Christianity had within it a very anti-urban spirit which was inherited somewhat from the Old Testament. They hated the Roman empire, they hated the classical city and yet they incubated the rebirth of the city by providing a structure for cities. You started to have printing, and printing changed everything. Obviously you had this amazing ability to accumulate, and mass produce on that basis, knowledge and there was this rapid growth of literacy and libraries and very, very interesting contrasts.
One of the questions I ask in the book is why is it that Spain, which had conquered much of the world, had access to the gold and silver of the new world, had control of the most valuable trade routes which were basically between Europe and the new world and China and yet the great cities were never built in Seville and Madrid, why did that happen? And I think it had to do with the view of knowledge. I mean Cervantes wrote in allegory because he had to and he talked about the inquisition of books and I think what happened was when the Spanish orthodoxy decided that they would not allow for both the people or for their ideas to exist, the shift of wealth moved. So that even though the gold was in the control of the Spaniards it was not Seville and Madrid that became rich, it was Antwerp and Amsterdam and London that became rich and those places were open to different kinds of people. So this enormous shift that took place first to Italy, then to the Netherlands, then to Britain really had to do with the attitude towards knowledge.
What happened in the Enlightenment was science, knowledge and boundaries were expanded. The scientific knowledge became increasingly systematic and now the process moved the other way. Indian, Persian, Chinese, Arabic texts were integrated into the collections and you began to see the growth of mass literacy and that really is a very exiting period in history. I mean when books began to become part of the life of at least the middle class and there were the growth of the private collections - and almost amazing to imagine that until 1500 books were really the preserve of either people in the church or a very small number of very wealthy people. And this excited not just the people in terms of the collecting but the fact that it made them think about life in a different way, and I love this quote 'Why should a man live if he cannot study'.
There was this beginning to really open up the mind and again you see this enormous change in how people view themselves and their world. Again the key to this was this openness, and one of the great periods I think of human history is the 16th/17th century in the Netherlands, which was a remarkably open place and was able to bring in knowledge. It brings me back to my Spinoza book which was published in the Netherlands and this beginning, this grasping, not only for knowledge but beginning to consider maybe somebody else has some interesting ideas and maybe we should look at them. And I thought the same thing is that you could prevent women from serving in the Army, you can prevent them from being in the bureaucracy but you couldn’t stop them from reading and so you begin to get this, starting to think, women very dangerously beginning to read books, and this created an enormous new frontier which you already begin to sense in the 16th and 17th century.
And of course this changed the whole balance. Once a society was suffused with knowledge and information it could challenge another society which was larger in population, richer and even in that stage somewhat technologically more advanced. I thought this was very interesting - in 1601 Britain’s revenues were about one tenth those of India’s and within 200 years it was completely reversed. So England, how did the English conquer India? I mean it’s just bizarre and yet they were able to. I mean it’s a lot different, the history of India as opposed to Australia where the conquest was clearly technological supremacy applied barbarically but nevertheless there was no question of who would win that conflict. But in India you had an evolved and wealthy civilisation that essentially collapsed from within and the British were able to take advantage of that.
Now in a way you see this progression of this development of this very enlightened city and of course you can see it in Florence and early Paris and London. Then we see this, something of the beginning of the crisis that we face today and will go on for the next 100 years I’m sure, and that is the industrial city. Because all of a sudden this kind of classical urban environment, which almost you can take urban history, take it all the way to 1850 and somehow cities were the same, and in the book I call them sacred, safe and busy. They had a church, they had a wall and they had a market place and everything was kind of safe. Families lived and worked in the same places and there was this kind of gracefulness. And you know, if you look at cities that were built up until 1700-1800 there was a gracefulness to them and then all of a sudden there was this change because the city becomes a place of mass production and it changes everything. So in 1850 Britain becomes the first city with an urban majority. Unbelievable rise of pollution. The death rates in the city of Manchester were about five times what they were in the countryside. They didn’t have doctors in the countryside. You know some people say that’s why they lived longer but the reality is that nevertheless they had this huge variation and actually it wasn’t until 1900 that the cities began to be healthy enough to grow without bringing more people in from the countryside.
And so how did people react to this. Well, the middle class reacted by going - they had to work there, so they went upwind. I’m sure in Melbourne, I know probably up to the hillier areas because they didn’t want to be near all this horrible stuff that was down below. The aristocrats, who were basically the merchants who married the daughters of the feckless real aristocrats, they moved to the countryside so they, I always think it’s so funny, you have these very sensitive people living in all these novels, then they’re in masterpiece theatre and they’re really sensitive people. Meanwhile their money is coming from the incredible exploitation of working-class people.
Of course the working-class people were not particularly in good shape and what had been the tradition of the artisan actually learning and maybe reading and having time to read the Bible at least. And that began to be squashed up by this machine that just ate up the human spirit and people’s time and families and kids working at the age of seven and people obviously having to go elsewhere. And we created these horribly dense cities - and I talked a little bit about density, I was very shocked to find this out, a German demographer did a study and showed that the medieval town had about 100 square metres per person. Now we think of those towns as being very dense but if you look behind the houses they had gardens, they had fruit trees. By the pre-industrial city, early 19th century, about 40 metres per person and by the time of the rise of the industrial city, particularly in the UK but also in North America, we’re down to about 20 metres per person. This kind of incredible density that was not meant for human beings and for most people just doesn’t really work that well.
And of course if we want to know what it was like, one of my favourite writers, Frederick Engels, wrote about this. Unlike our modern, post-modernist Marxists, Engels was both a good writer and a good reporter and actually thought the truth was something worth reporting as opposed to a narrative that he’s constructing, some of you know what I’m talking about. But anyway, this description of what this was is so hard for us to understand. You know when people talk about people moving to suburbia and isn’t that terrible and wasn’t it so great that we had these dense cities. Well I have a very good instructor in this, my mother, who grew up in a place called Brownsville, Brooklyn, which is a horrific slum and she would say in more colourful language that - since I don’t know you all well enough I won’t use her language - but she said it was a crummy neighbourhood then and it’s a crummy neighbourhood now. And so people had this natural feeling that they didn’t like this and they wanted to recreate a new reality.
So what we had in the United States was what we call the progressive movement. We began to think, how do we take this mass of people who are living in this terrible life. I mean my mother talks about sewing buttons at home and my grandmother going and working in a garment factory in not really the best conditions. People started saying, we’ve got to do something better with this. We’ve created this enormous wealth with the industrial revolution, we’ve got to use it better. We’ve got to use it to uplift people. And so you start to see the reform of first the physical environment. And then 20th-century education begins to address the issue of how do we improve the internal life of people, and one of the great stories is the rise of mass education in Japan. Japan, which still has about the highest literacy rate of virtually any country in the world. And the idea of the democratisation of knowledge, and that’s really what libraries are about. This is where we see this new narrative that begins to move. Yes the industrial revolution, we did these terrible things and there was a huge cost for it but now we’re going to reinvest it in the uplift of people’s lives.
So we start the democratisation of libraries. The first landmark in the United States is the Boston Public Library, founded in 1848. And it was really that which created the notion of Boston as being the kind of Athens of America. Of course we have the great New York Public Library. If any of you have been to New York it was completed in 1902 and then the establishment of a branch system. But the part that I find most interesting and I think most exiting in the context of libraries in the future is what you might call the real spreading of the wealth, the Carnegie Libraries. Carnegie, of course, being a Scottish immigrant, comes to the United States, makes a fortune in the steel business and he comes up with this notion that I’m going to use my fortune to build libraries all throughout the small towns of America. Started with Pittsburgh. 2806 libraries. So I do a lot of work in the great plains of the United States and you can go and almost every little town there has a Carnegie Library and if it hadn’t been for that library... You know, you read the stories of the young kids growing up in the countryside and the library was their connection to the real world.
And this was such an incredibly important achievement in the evolution of libraries. Libraries had always been very concentrated in a small group and even if they were accessible to working people they were just in a few locations. So I also want to say, well does this apply to Australia and out of respect to my audience and of course to understanding what was driving this event, I did a little bit of research and found out that the first printing press came over with the First Fleet. Then we saw the rise of the subscription libraries. Free libraries became common place in Australia by the 1850s and 60s. The Commonwealth parliamentary library I guess they made some big mistake by moving the capital out of Melbourne. But you have some of the residue that was left over.
And of course the evolution of this very great library system here in the state of Victoria. But I was in a sense more entranced by the Mechanics Institutes which almost is a parallel with our Carnegie Library and came out of Scotland, interestingly, the same place that Carnegie came from. First Mechanics Institutes set up in 1823 in Hobart. There are about 1000 of them and what it did, it spread knowledge to the Australian working and middle classes and to the people who were not normally going to be in a big city. And again this is a lot of the mission of a library and in the 21st century as we look at the increased dispersion of people to either the suburbs or I think eventually to some of the smaller towns and obviously to the very fast-growing states like Queensland, this spreading of knowledge to new communities is extremely important. And by the way also to neighbourhoods, particularly immigrant neighbourhoods and poorer neighbourhoods in the big cities.
So where are we going with Cities, Place and the Information Age? Well the Information Age I think does change everything. It makes smaller places and emerging economies have potential greater leverage. Technology will lead to the declustering around the advanced countries. There will be new players, it’s almost like you’re reshuffling the deck. Those places that get the information revolution will progress, those that don’t will not. As Herodotus said, 'Prosperity does not abide well alone in one place', and this will be the next shift. We’re going to talk a little bit about the cities and of course those of you here in Australia are probably more intimately familiar with South East Asia. I’m a little more intimately familiar with South America and particularly with Mexico. But you have these huge cities that are in danger of being left behind and that I think is going to be a great issue both inside of our societies but probably more importantly in the developing world.
This is particularly important because more and more of wealth is being created. Intellectually the tangible assets, as a percentage of all assets, you can see what’s happened in the United States from about 75% to about 50%. And this is a particular challenge I would think for the history of Australia. My hosts who brought me here from Mind Sharing have been talking a lot about the problem that Australia, being a resource rich country used to living off its incredibly great productive agriculture, mining, raw materials, maybe has not been as aware of the importance of this, as other societies. It’s great to have those things, those commodities, but you’ve got to be thinking long term about the intellectual aspect if you’re really going to be competitive. And that today, as HG Wells suggested over 100 years ago, this will be spread out among a wider and wider framework. So when you think about Melbourne, you can’t really just think about the City of Melbourne, you have to think about really the whole state of Victoria as almost one economic and technological unit.
You’re going to see more and more being able to live in remote areas and commute. So if you’re looking down in the next 50 to 100 years, information will allow people to operate essentially either from home or from remote places. This is a quote from a guy who’s the head of CAD development for Cypress Semiconductor and he talks about the notion that he left Silicon Valley. He now runs the CAD department from Lexington, Kentucky and instead of going on the 101 Freeway, and wanting to kill himself, he goes and he drives 17 miles and then he goes into his office, he opens his computer and he’s essentially in Silicon Valley. So the information revolution has a lot to do with the shift in geography that we’re seeing.
Now if we take it from a global point of view, we do know that there has been this enormous increase in urban population. In 1900 about 5% of the people of the world lived in cities, by 2007 it will be 50%. The urban population has grown from a fraction to about 5 billion in 2030. Now what’s also happened is the shift in where the great cities of the world are. If we take a look at the larger cities of the world in 1900 they were all in Europe and a few in the northeastern corner of the United States with the exception being of course Tokyo. By 1950 that shift has taken place that Europe now has four, you’re starting to see some in Latin America and of course the growing concentration in Asia and then finally today there is not one European city in the top 10. Actually I think there is now only one or two in the top 20. I think London and Paris may barely be in there. And you have growth of these vast new cities. What’s interesting is many of these vast new cities are not significant on a global basis economically, they’re just larger conglomerations of population. The two last mega cities in the top 10 that are predominantly European are in some sense New York and Los Angeles and you probably don’t consider Los Angeles very European and neither do we. You know its city is now about 40% Hispanic, 10% Asian and the rest of us don’t know who we are.
What this has driven on in the western world as we’ve urbanised has been the growth predominantly of suburbia, this is the growth cities versus suburbs of the United States. Again as wealth led to the telegraph, telephone, commuter rail and then you see the development now of the internet. Ever greater dispersion. The migration patterns in the United States, and I think you’re going to see more of this in Australia in a somewhat different form, moving to smaller-sized cities as it becomes more and more possible to do so. And of course the domestic migration since 2000 - about 2 million have left the large cities, mostly for smaller ones or even the country side. Jobs have followed very much the same pattern. We see the growth in jobs now in all these new cities. I think the Australian model’s a little bit different but I think you will see, and I think you will need to see, the growth of some of your more regional cities over time. Major industries are information-based industries like financial services. In New York it was 37% of the financial service industry in 1981 it’s 20% today. Business services, again the same kind of pattern.
The shift of how our cities look. What’s very interesting is both in the 90s and the current economic expansion we’re seeing almost no construction of high-rise office space in the United States and that I think is fundamentally because the work has moved largely elsewhere. Where we’re seeing construction interestingly enough is cultural institutions, libraries and residential. That’s growing but the office function is, if you will, declustering. When we look at this, this is not just happening in the United States. Same pattern London, New York, Chicago, Frankfurt, Paris, Tokyo. Again these are long-term numbers, from 1965 to 2000. And fundamentally the information revolution is making it possible to decluster out of the central city and industry is following.
We have the same patterns here in Australia but starting from a somewhat different base. But very strong growth in the suburban areas - as you can see, the yellow numbers are the suburban areas and the suburban area growth being predominantly in the, particularly in the, bigger cities Melbourne and Sydney. Population growth rates again, you see the same pattern. Brisbane, Perth growing much faster. Sydney I think is really hitting a kind of wall, I’m sure you’re heartbroken about it. But Sydney has some very serious problems, it’s extremely expensive and very, very difficult for younger people to move there and build a career. Going to make it very hard for the information industry of the future. Economic numbers are even worse and my understanding is Sydney has now gone negative in the last reports.
So that’s a picture in the developed countries which has greater and greater dispersion and it’s going to become increasingly important that places like Melbourne remain places that young information workers can find a place to live and have a decent quality of life. You have enormous advantages and I’ll talk about that a little bit at the end but fundamentally you have to deal with that situation. You are going to see a declustering.
Now let’s talk a little bit on a global basis because this is Library of the Future, since most of the people in the future are not going to live in Australia, United States or Canada. Let’s talk about the rest of the world. Large sections of the population even in the advanced countries have less access there, so we have an internal, if you will, third world developing inside the first world. But there are many countries that are lagging in this information revolution and the question is what do we do about that, both internally and on a global basis.
Telecommunications is obviously, as I said, creating a new environment for people to communicate with each other so again the deck is being reshuffled and here is where the reshuffling is taking place. What is clearly happening is the number of internet users. Using it just as one of the approximations, it’s grown obviously throughout the world but the big growth is in Asia and these are really amazing numbers. If you take a look at the internet use. By the way, Australia you can see is really close to the top, really high percentage of users. About 6,000 per 10,000 internet users. But I would point this one, this one and compare it to that one. Israel. It’s almost if you go to Israel you are clearly in the same world as Australia, Canada and the United States, Western Europe. But in the large parts of the Middle East - and this is where I find it really tragic given the great history of the Islamic cultures - that they have not opened themselves up to information. I also want to say, although I know you’re supposed to be nice to your big trading partners, but since they’re not my big trading partner, the attempt to restrict information in China from the internet is going to be something that’s going to hurt them long term.
So the Syrian scholar made the point that if the Islamic world in particular does not adopt these technologies and essentially open themselves to the influences of this new information revolution, the Middle East may, as it did during the industrial revolution, again drop back and become a backwater and a very dangerous backwater at that because you can have a society that’s essentially based on dogma, at the same time the technology can be transformed to do all sorts of nasty things.
So where are we going both internally and externally in the future of information, again libraries being at the core of this? We have some very good things to talk about, the wireless transmission I think makes the dispersion of knowledge less expensive. There are new delivery systems that we could use for communal use in remote and underdeveloped places and also in the use of information – there’s a very interesting firm in the state of Florida that is now working on information systems for community decision making. So as to bring in a large, so you’re not just the constituency groups, you really have the population involved. So we could really be on the verge of either a kind of new era of tremendous worldwide growth, a knowledge era and also a era in which social equity is being pushed or we could be moving into a much more uneven pattern of economic growth.
And I think libraries are at the absolute centre of this. One of the really exciting solutions is this Curitaba Lighthouses. These little centres that they’ve built in, even in the worst of the [Favalos] so the kids have this access. We are now working in Los Angeles to bring this to some of our poorer communities so that a kid growing up in East LA or Watts has access and I think is something that maybe libraries could be at the key, a key portal for information for children in your poorer neighbourhoods. Because from what I can understand Melbourne and Sydney in particular already have some of the kind of problems that we face in the United States, as you get immigrants and as you also have native-born Australians who have been out of the information loop. So I think this is something that libraries can do. It’s very cost effective. Use digital technology, instead of having to build a big library but you use digital technology to access the resources of the library.
So here are future scenarios for the information age and then I would love to entertain your questions. One is, it could be the broader spreading of knowledge and a global renaissance, a renaissance beyond the imagination of Marlow or anybody from the Renaissance. Or we could have a diversified urbanised archipelago with hot spots of knowledge, warm areas with progress and cold regions doomed to irrelevance. It’s really a pretty big challenge.
And I think finally, and this is just a tie to what your fundamental mission is, libraries and information dissemination may be the critical difference. If we can somehow reach, whether it’s the poor and working class people in our great cities in the west or whether it’s in the third world, if we can reach those young kids and give them access to knowledge and information, I think we can create a kind of new and maybe unprecedented golden age in the information age. If we don’t do that I think we’re going to have to live with some pretty unpleasant consequences.
Thank you very much.
Transcript from the Libraries & Community session of the Library of the 21st Century Symposium, State Library of Victoria, Thursday 23 February, 2006.