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Darius Lam ’17 Brings Virtual Library Browsing to Andover with Stack Life

In response to the declining utilization of physical libraries, Stack Life, a web application aimed to promote the usage of libraries, was launched at Andover this week in a joint effort between Darius Lam ’17 and North Of Boston Library Exchange (NOBLE).

Inspired by the Stack Life program currently implemented at Harvard Law School, Stack Life at Andover aims to assist students in the research process and allow users to virtually organize books and browse the stacks of the OWHL.

Lam was the lead developer and task manager of Stack Life. He wrote the code and organized resources from NOBLE.

Lam said in an interview with The Phillipian, “In general, people can use [Stack Life] if they have free time to browse books and find new books they’re interested in. For me, I know I found a lot of books about artificial intelligence, something that I’m really interested in, through the software.”

Stack Life aims to make the stacks of the library more interactive and engaging. Users can “tag” books and create their own stacks of books based on subjects, or merge all of the stacks together into a single bookshelf.

Michael Barker, Director of Academy Research, Information and Library Services, said in a phone interview with The Phillipian, “[With Stack Life, students] can just search the stacks from their dorm room or [the] day student lounge without actually having to go to the library.”

“If we look at, say, the stacks, we have different shelves of books,” said Lam. “Stack Life can [combine] all those shelves together to make this really big stack that you can browse all of the books from. It can also create new stacks as well, like all the books that are related to brains or artificial intelligence.”

“It’s supposed to be more intuitive and help people discover more books because you can visualize hundreds of books on a single stack,” Lam continued.

Stack Life not only looks to promote the continuation of libraries, but it also allows users to browse libraries with more ease.
“I feel like one turnaround for students using the library is that [they’ll say], ‘Where do I get started?’ [and] ‘How do I use this?,’” said Lam. “Stack Life gives students access to the same information, but gives it in a way that’s much more intuitive to use and [in a way] they already know how to use.”

Barker initially contacted Lam to help bring Stack Life from Harvard to Andover.

Lam said, “We all know that libraries are… kind of dying out because of lack of funding and [the thought of], ‘Why do people need to go to the stacks if they have information online?’ One of the ways Stack Life tries to help [with the continuation of libraries] is by bringing back the idea of serendipitous discovery.”

“We called it Stack Life because we wanted to represent the library stacks in a way that didn’t seem so dead… Through the application, you can create new stacks and you can visualize the library in different ways, which is why we called it ‘life.’ So we made it a little more alive, hopefully,” he continued.

Lam hopes Stack Life will allow students to explore their interests and help engage their research process.

Feb 5, 2016