In a world where information and technology are everywhere and ever-present, opportunities to unplug may become more essential, benefiting both professional and personal experiences.

How It’s Developing

The availability of technology and the constant connectedness that it provides coupled with an immense amount of information (news, e-mail, social networks, etc.) places many individuals in danger of cognitive overload. Faced with this overload, individuals and organizations may struggle to achieve focus on what is important. [1]
In addition to requiring an unplugged space to focus on work, unplugged spaces may also be required for retreat and renewal. In spite of research connecting vacations to improved productivity and job performance, more than half of American workers stay plugged in, responding to work emails and communicating with the workplace while on vacation. [2] While most hotels currently promote the availability of internet and work spaces, some “escape” destinations actively promote lack of internet and phone signals, seeking to lure travelers interested in disconnecting from workplace demands and connection. [3]
New products, including clothing, phone cases, and bags, are being developed with the express purpose of disabling technology and limiting incoming communication. [4] Pushes for “device-free zones,” digital detoxes, and unplugging challenges all demonstrate an awareness of the hyper-connectivity of life and a growing movement away from that level of connectivity. [5]

Why It Matters

Libraries may capitalize on users’ perceptions of libraries as quiet spaces, marketing at least some spaces in their buildings as places to unplug, concentrate, and focus. This may be a rebranding from "quiet reading spaces" to "unplug zones" or "digital escape spaces" that capitalize on the trend's language.
Programming and services that encourage quiet reflection or limit the use of technology may become novel and popular as they contrast with the everyday connectivity that people normally encounter. [6]
The constant connectedness of society may change the ways that future generations concentrate and collect, synthesize, and analyze information. [7]
Library workers may increasingly seek opportunities to unplug, be reflective, or quietly focus on specific work activities, and this may be a challenge in a culture that does not provide opportunities for that type of work time.

Examples from Libraries

Wake Forest University Z. Smith Reynolds Library - ZieSta Room

Is you library innovating with unplugged services or spaces? Please let us know.

Notes and Resources

[1] Future Work Skills 2020, Anna Davies, Devin Fidler, and Marina Gorbis, (Phoenix: Institute for the Future for University of Phoenix Research Institute, 2011), available from http://www.iftf.org/futureworkskills/.

[2] “More Americans Working Through Their Vacation Time,” Huffington Post, July 18, 2013, available from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/18/more-americans-working-th_n_361....

[3] “Lonely Planet’s 10 Predictions for the Future of Travel,” Brittany Jones Cooper, Yahoo Travel, September 26, 2014, available from https://www.yahoo.com/travel/the-future-of-travel-is-cheaper-and-tech-fr....

[4] “Why Anti-Tech Is in Style – Literally,” Rob Walker, Yahoo Tech, May 21, 2014, available from https://www.yahoo.com/tech/why-anti-tech-is-in-style-literally-863183116....

[5] “The 7-Day Digital Diet,” Teddy Wayne, New York Times, February 7, 2014, available from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/09/fashion/digital-detox-email-smartphone....


“Our unplugging Challenge: Seven Days Without Our Devices,” Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post, December 17, 2013, available from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/unplugging-challenge_b_....

[6] “What’s New…Slow Reading Clubs,” Aileen Nakhle, Well and Good – Stuff, October 10, 2014, available from http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/well-good/inspire-me/10610359/Whats-ne....

[7] “Unplug! Your Children’s Future Depends on It!” Jennifer Moses, Time, October 28, 2014, available from http://time.com/3543498/unplug-your-childrens-future-depends-on-it/.