Read for Later - “After our robots have been in an area for a while, people get used to them. They become part of the community and residents look out for their well-being.”

This week’s headline quotes Ryan Tuohy, Starship Technologies’ senior vice president of business development, in an optimistic and corporate-inspired perspective on how delivery robots will adapt to and become engrained in city and social infrastructure (Scientific American “Out of the way, human! Delivery robots want a share of your sidewalk”).

You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our futures.

What new information has sparked your interest? Drop me a line to let me know what you're reading or discovering that helps you consider the future of libraries.

Five Highlights

Scientific American “Out of the way, human! Delivery robots want a share of your sidewalk”
As last mile delivery comes into focus, the shift from street traffic to sidewalk robot delivery could reduce congestion and improve some safety elements, but these machines must demonstrate how they can safely and unobtrusively share pedestrian spaces and gain public trust.

The Verge “Emoji are showing up in court cases exponentially, and courts aren’t prepared”
Between 2004 and 2019, there was an exponential rise in emoji and emoticon references in US court opinions, and while they have rarely been important enough to sway the direction of a case, as they become more common, the ambiguity in their display and interpretation could become a larger issue for courts to contend with.

The Daily Beast “Airlines, including Delta, to add new gender options for non-binary passengers”
Airlines for America, the industry trade group representing the country’s largest airlines, will add new gender options in order to accommodate non-binary passengers, stating it had “recently approved a new international standard that will allow for ‘unspecified’ and ‘undisclosed’ as options in addition to ‘male’ or ‘female’” – A4A members (American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, United, JetBlue, and Southwest) will still have to individually update their online booking processes, but many have indicated an intent to do so.

The Chronicle of Higher Education “The rise of the mega-university”
At a time when many colleges are struggling with shrinking enrollment and tighter budgets, institutions like Southern New Hampshire are thriving, building huge online enrollments, focusing on working adults over fresh high-school graduates, and embracing competency-based education where students earn credits from life experiences and from demonstrating proficiency in a subject. See also USA Today “Papa John's serves up college tuition benefit to employees of pizza chain”

Wired “Amazon Alexa and the search for the one perfect answer”
A fascinating look at voice control devices, internet search engines, one-shot answers, and the creation, distribution, and control of information.

Communities and Demographics

The Atlantic “These are the Americans who live in a bubble”
A new study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and The Atlantic finds that while most Americans do not live in a total isolation bubble, a significant minority of Americans do – they seldom or never meet people of another race, dislike interacting with people who don’t share their political beliefs, and prize sameness in the lives of their children.

CityLab “Urban neighborhoods, once distinct by race and class, are blurring”
A new study by Elizabeth Delmelle, a professor of geography and earth sciences at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, identifies nine distinct types of neighborhoods in the nation’s 50 largest metro areas (among the types: wealthy, white educated; older homes, white, some Hispanic, blue-collar workers; Hispanic and foreign born, high poverty, single-family homes; mixed race, average socioeconomic status, renters) – her findings show how America’s cities and metro areas bear little resemblance to the urban/suburban or poor city/rich suburban model of the past, but neither do they look like the inverted pattern of rich, urban centers surrounded by poorer suburbs, that some say is a consequence of the gentrified city.


Engadget “NASA is close to finalizing its drone traffic control system for cities”
NASA has chosen Nevada and Texas as final testing sites for its drone traffic management system that hopes to determine how to safely fly drones in an urban environment.

Economics and the Workplace

The Guardian “Four-day week: trial finds lower stress and increased productivity”
In an eight-week trial monitored by academics at the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology, Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand financial services company, switched its 240 staff from a five-day to a four-day week, maintaining their pay rate – the trial’s resulting white paper claims that productivity increased 20% in the four days worked at the same time that staff wellbeing improved.

The New York Times Magazine “The rise of the WeWorking class”
Co-working space WeWork is reimagining “office culture” – free coffee and centralized fruit-water dispensers, narrow hallways, boxy plate-glass enclosures, distant bathrooms, and events and programs to entice users – in an effort to create positive encounters and heal the social fabric of the work space. If you have time for longer reads, see the magazines’ full Future of Work series – “Decades on the job, and counting,” “The $15 minimum wage,” “An office designed for workers with autism,” “America’s professional elite,” “The new labor movement,” and “Why aren’t women advancing more in corporate America?”


The Hechinger Report “Teacher shortages force districts to use online education programs”
An increasing number of school districts, including those in rural and isolated communities where limited recruitment may lead to critical shortages of certified teachers, are turning to online learning platforms to lead students’ education in core subject areas – the lack of an in-person expert teacher, who can answer questions, lead discussions, and spend extra time with students who are struggling, poses a significant challenge to students.

Play and Toys

Axios “Screen time has more than doubled for babies, thanks mostly to TV”
A new study published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics [$] finds that the screen time for children ages 0-2 more than doubled from 1.32 daily hours in 1997 to 3.05 hours in 2014 – most of the uptick comes from screen time spent on television, leading some to speculate that the increase is caused by changes in parental interactions because of work schedules or other socio-economic factors.

Streaming Media

TechCrunch “Amazon’s Audible expands its original programming with new comedy series”
Audible announced a new partnership with Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video for original comedy projects, including Heads Will Roll, a program created, produced by, and starring Kate McKinnon and Emily Lynne, and 63rd Man, from senior SNL writer Bryan Tucker and Zack Phillips – the two shows will join Audible’s collection of original content including programming in areas like journalism, literature, theater, romance, sci-fi and fantasy and kids.