May 26, 2011

Find the Future

Here's how I spent last Friday, May 20 at the New York Public Library with 499 other people and wrote a book.  Just click here for a full and detailed rundown of how Find the Future went down, from my specific and personal point of view.

As this is a book blog, however, I figured I would also give you my perspective on the event as a booklover. 

That was actually the initial reason I had been drawn to the event in the first place - what self-professed booklover would not jump at the chance to spend a night in a library (and in this case, one of the world's most famous buildings)?

The Artifacts

Though the event itself mostly utilized gaming and technology, it was undeniable how much the presence of books and other forms of the word contributed to the game.  Many of the artifacts that the participants were required to search for included books, author's mementos and pieces of writing.  Some great examples include the Gutenberg bible, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, souvenirs from Virginia Woolf, Jack Kerouac's belongings and even Charles Dickens' personalized cat paw letter opener.

Some of the items may appear to be mere curiosities; others, like the books, make more sense in the quest.  But each artifact imparted a deep sense of history to the viewer.  For a booklover, it was a heady, pleasant sensation; you gained a sense of familiarity, solidarity and even humanity of each writer through their belongings.  There was also a sense of plain awe as you saw these things that these famous people had handled in their lifetime as writers.

"The Stacks"

Apart from the interesting artifacts that participants were tasked to discover, one of the highlights for any booklover would be the tour of "the stacks".  The New York Public Library is home to nearly 5 million books, most of which are housed in the stacks underneath the library and it's extension under Bryant Park.

As we descended into this world of shelves and shelves and shelves of books, my first thought was - wow.  Whichever way I turned, I could only see miles and miles of books on shelves.  It was heaven for my little bookworm heart; I inhaled the scent of books, old and new, and felt a giddy rush of joy. As our librarian showed us around a little, I could barely contain my excitement. To be amongst such an incredible number of books, to see nothing but books around me - it was quite heavenly.  Most of my fellow participants were as silent as I was, treating this place with the special reverence booklovers reserve for such places.

If you're ever fortunate to take the tour of the stacks (only 30 people a day are normally allowed to do this), and you love books as much as I do, it's something worth doing.

Find the Future: The Book

The end result of the overnight stay in the library was a book - one written with contributions from each of the 500 participants.  With each artifact found, we unlocked a quest that needed to be completed.  Though there were many ways to complete the quests, most of them called on writing.

In the end, a book was created, freshly printed on beautiful paper and signed by the 500 participants. My favorite part (apart from signing it and seeing my story in print) was watching the bookbinder work.  Books are also something I find aesthetically pleasing and his method of old-fashioned book-binding was beautiful.  Though I didn't wait around to see him finish, I still found myself utterly excited at how beautiful it was shaping up to be.

The book is available at the New York Public Library, and I cannot wait until I get the opportunity to see it.

The whole event was a success, thanks to Jane McGonigal, the New York Public Library and the rest of the team behind it.  It was incredibly fun to meet 500 crazy, creative people, spend the night in a library on a scavenger hunt and solving quests!


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