Brin (World 51)
David Brin (1950 – ; first SF publication, 1980) is best known for his Uplift series, and we’ll get to that, but his other writing is also noteworthy. I’ve particularly enjoyed Kiln People, where you can create short-lived avatars of yourself (a clay “kiln” person) to experience adventures you might not be willing to risk yourself; Glory Season, which explores the intricate consequences of genetic engineering; and The Practice Effect, in which the laws of science are … different — all clothing, furniture and such are roughly handmade, and only with wear do they become fine and polished. The lower classes use them until they’re good enough for more refined sensibilities.
The Uplift saga embraces several galaxies in which various species are “uplifted” into sentience by older patron species. It’s a well-established pattern, broken by humanity uplifting itself (and, by the time the rest of civilization finds them, acquiring exalted patron status by uplifting dolphins and chimpanzees, as well). The basic conflict is between the upstart earthclan and the longer-established patrons.
A Galactic Library
One of the key treasures bestowed upon a species once it has acquired sentience is a galactic library, in which is recorded all knowledge of all species throughout civilization. Of course, humanity prefers to work things out itself, rather than relying on long-established precedent, which generally produces subpar results but occasionally leads to flashes of inspiration.