Look to “Learning Modes” to Guide Library Design

Over the last 25 years, research has shown that the right environment can transform the way a student learns and retains information. According to Rob Abel, Malcolm Brown, Jack Suess – “In higher education, we are entering a period in which it is the connections between everything and everyone that are of importance…A connected learning environment offers new ways to connect things that were previously considered disparate and “un-connectable”: people, resources, experiences, diverse content, and communities, as well as experts and novices, formal and informal modes, mentors and advisors.”

ACA developed the Five Modes of Learning to help create these connected learning environments. We approach a project by recognizing the diverse ways that students learn; our studio strives to create library environments that will enhance their experience.

Aaron Cohen Associates’ Five Modes of Learning are:

• Touchpoint
• Collaboration
• Reflective
• Social
• Presentation

A SPACE FOR EVERY MODE OF LEARNING

Touch point
The touchpoint should be the first point of contact in the library. It is a place for casual contact and interactions; it is also a place where a student can interact with the collection. A touchpoint is located in an open environment, with students able to use it independently or ask a librarian.

A typical touchpoint could be the circulation desk or help desk—but these spaces can become much more than a place to check out materials. There has been a shift in Library services from a fixed stationary point to a mobile series of help hotspots. Or, a touchscreen can be a self-directed, informal learning portal.

Collaboration
The collaborative learning mode enables dialogue between people who come together to explore new possibilities and challenging problems. It becomes a place for students to share ideas and information as they work together, or spontaneously with others nearby. It offers a way to connect people who might otherwise not have the opportunity to interact. Collaborative areas must offer flexible seating arrangements and access to power.

Reflective
Even as technology changes and data-access increases, students still need a quiet space to work. The reflective learning mode refers to a typical “study” environment: it is a personal space that is conducive to quiet study and reflection. Understanding human behavior is an important aspect of reflective learning environments. Many students will look for a place to concentrate and focus intently on their work.

Social
A social space is somewhat self-explanatory, but essential to a successful library design. It is a conversation area where it is acceptable—even expected—to have more noise, possibly food, and a place where students can unwind or even work in an informal environment. A library café is a good example of a social learning space.

Presentation/Training
University students often need a space to do practice presentations or be part of a group in which one person is speaking to all. Semi-enclosed or enclosed areas provide a good environment for the presentation learning mode.

Covering all the “Five Modes of Learning” enables a library or learning center to offer the perfect mix of design and functionality. By keeping learning modes in mind during the planning process, a library truly can serve every student’s needs.

5MODESOFLEARNING

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The Impact Assessment: A Powerful Tool

Library impact assessments can be self-studies. They can come in one, two or three forms: Lib Quals (created by the Association of Research Libraries), visual scans and/or environmental scans. A Visual Scan is an observational assessment of the interior of the library facility. An environmental scan observes the internal and external physical and social environments. This holistic approach can detect strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). It promises to influence current and future strategic plans.

Our company, Aaron Cohen Associates (ACA), has developed an in-depth predictive model for library services and spaces by creating an impact assessment that combines the best of the visual and environmental scans. We believe this is an important strategy for our academic library clients: they need to extract maximum value from their environment. In other words, they need to strive for a sustainable and functional competitive advantage.

Today, the staffs of successful academic libraries, and the educational organizations to which they report, must identify and quickly respond to transitory competitive advantages. They must then move on to the next short-lived technological and market upgrades. The library staff must be open to constantly learning and adopting new services—because environments are in persistent states of flux.

Elaine Cohen suggests, “An organization cannot survive with a minimalist approach to the future. Instead, it needs basic strategies that produce sustained changes in behavior and robust improvements in performance. This means that a good predictive model needs to produce a deep and durable impact assessment that both guides and accelerates an holistic approach to overseeing library services and spaces.”

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As the Virtual Becomes Ever-More Reality, Libraries Reap the Benefits

Although the circulation of books, media and other materials has dropped precipitously at the majority of libraries, many of them still feature large, outmoded circulation desks. Thus, while service functions have changed, physical spaces in the library have not. It is time to create designs that increase collection collisions, either with physical books or interactive collaborative spaces.

Libraries can sometimes seem frozen in time, with a too-slow transition from passive, fixed features to mobile service modules. Today, in addition to mobile stations, patrons can check items in and out via their mobile devices. A smaller circulation area enables the redesign of the library spaces: from a relatively passive corridor to an active space; from a static area to a robust environment.

Soon we will be immersed in service designed to maximize digital literacy. For example, library staff of the future may use Google Glass-like “eyewear” to serve patrons better;  Luxotica is working on the second version of Google Glass. CEO Massimo Vian confirmed that they have a partnership with Google to develop a phase 2 version.

We are planning libraries that will take advantage of burgeoning virtual and hologram technology. The library service desks will be equipped with touch screens and spaces for connected librarians to share collections. We are beginning to develop ideas with mobile tools that will enhance staff capabilities. IT tools can support knowledge and information exchanges, using smart library setups.

In the near future,the library service desk/touch point will incorporate the cloud and mobile technology in new ways. For example, Microsoft developed the Hololense project recently. This product includes a headset that enhances the physical world. These ongoing innovations will surely reach the library. The opportunities for enhancing service via visual computing are endless–a holodeck was once only fiction, but could conceivably be part of the library of the future one day.

Below is a planning model from our library program planning archives
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A Beautiful Space, a Usable Space: The Balance of Library Design

We are often asked “what are the best libraries in the world?” This is a difficult question to answer, because libraries must be both beautiful and functional. An attractive space is only part of the equation; a library must also offer essential services. Conversely, a library may have great services and still need to improve their physical environment. This is why library design is a challenge for any architectural team.

We have been studying the dynamics of beautiful libraries for many years, with input from librarians and architects. For example, the library building awards by LLAMA is a good place to familiarize yourself with libraries that stand out. You may also inform LLAMA of projects that you think are worthwhile.

There are many elements that need to be defined in order to develop a balanced and beautiful library environment. Below are links to some examples of library design; they are a source of inspiration for us, aiding the design process for our clients.

LINKS TO BEAUTIFUL LIBRARIES

Architectural Digest – The most spectacular libraries around the world

Business Insider – The most beautiful new library buildings in America

CHRON – Most beautiful libraries in Texas… and beyond

Article – 62 of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries

STANFORD UNIVERSITY – GREEN LIBRARY

Stanford University Green Library

OLD TOWN LIBRARY – FORT COLLINS CO

Old-Town-Library-Poudre-River-Library_Hero-1600x600Old-Town-Library-Poudre-River-Library-9-600x400Old-Town-Library-Poudre-River-Library-10-600x400

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Library Coding Classes / Crowdsourcing Fundraising Ideas

Transformative learning environments can make a big impact on struggling youth. As technology continues to advance, libraries are now offering coding classes to support the next generation of education. They are creating their own well of knowledge by training the community in new skills. For example, the Hive at Hillsborough Public Libraries provides all the tools to develop new ideas. Louisville’s library system (LFPL) offers coding courses to community members, supporting the next wave of knowledge workers. The HPLC and LFPL are both examples of libraries that are responding to an industry that is chronically in need of young and energetic workers, i.e. software and hardware developers. The libraries are making a difference with both space, services and collections; something that is unique to all libraries.

According to Coding ‘Boot Camp’ Opens High-Tech Doors, free software-building classes can put poor youth on a potentially lucrative career path. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that hiring of software developers will grow at a rate twice as fast as the average for all occupations through 2022. Keeping this in mind, libraries need to be investing in coding classes, staff and hackable spaces. They need to connect with companies like Jeff Macco’s Seedpaths; delivering software development education to entry-level and advanced-level students.

Libraries that support the community with coding/software development and crowd-sourcing skills can make a real difference in the world. What if libraries could train their own software developers to help them build public funding campaigns? As the Guardian reported in”Crowdfunding saved Timbuktu’s manuscripts. What’s next?,” Thomas Gruner and T160K developed a crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo called Timbuktu Libraries in Exile. In 2014 it raised $67,000, illustrating that crowdfunding is a viable way to raise money for libraries: ancient and modern, large and small.

Even though Timbuktu’s library had no funding, hackers from around the world rallied to support the wealth of knowledge it holds. This can be the same for any library. It starts by building new spaces that will enhance the technology capabilities in your community and connecting them with the world.

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Environmental Scan and Impact Assessment for Academic Libraries

Library impact assessments can be self-studies. They can come in three forms: Lib Quals (created by the Association of Research Libraries), visual scans and/or environmental scans. A visual scan is an observational assessment of the interior of the library facility. An environmental scan observes the internal and external physical and social environments. It is an holistic approach for detecting signs of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). It promises to influence current and future strategic plans.

Our company, Aaron Cohen Associates (ACA), has developed an in-depth predictive model for library services and spaces. As a basic strategy, we have created an impact assessment that combines the best of the visual and environmental scans. We believe this is an important strategy for our academic library clients. They need to extract maximum value from their environment to maintain a competitive advantage.

In today’s technological environment, the staffs of successful academic libraries—and the educational structures to which they report—must identify and quickly respond to transitory competitive advantages, and move on to the next short-lived technological and market upgrades. Their staffs must be open to learning and adopting new behaviors constantly as their information and educational environments are in persistent states of flux.

An organization cannot survive with a minimalist approach to the future. Instead it needs basic strategies that produce sustained changes in behavior and robust improvements in performance. All this means that a good predictive model needs to produce a deep and durable impact assessment that both guides and accelerates a holistic approach to overseeing library services and spaces.

PREDICTIVE MODEL FOR LIBRARY PLANNING

Cohen's Purpose_Diagram

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What Makes a Great Library for Today and Tomorrow

The library is operating in a very different world today. Technology is constantly evolving within an environment that is increasingly smart, flexible and mobile. Though so much is available on the web, a huge amount of historical content remains un-digitized and hidden. The library of tomorrow should be a public campus that will grow the world’s knowledge base while still providing access to non-digital resources. It will be responsive to changing cultural and digital needs, providing opportunities for dynamic collaboration.

According to the Horizon Report 2015, “the Lean Startup movement uses technology as a catalyst for promoting a culture of innovation in a more widespread, cost-effective manner, and provides compelling models” for library leaders and higher-education planners to consider.” The future library needs to favor experimentation over elaborate planning, customer feedback over intuition, and iterative design over traditional “big design upfront” development (see HBR Article by Steve Blank).

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Tomorrow’s users will connect to the public campus on the go: For example, pedestrians will receive “pushed” information from Bluetooth i-beacons near the library, and students will be able to access the cloud for school projects.

It is time to start developing the next generation libraries, enabling the community to benefit from a variety of knowledge resources. Through an integrated customer service model and tiered support services, the next generation library can enrich the cultural life of a campus, town, city and a nation.

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Makerspace and 3D Printing: the Future is Here

The newest frontier in library service is the development of a MakerSpace, which can include access to 3D technology. Mick Ebeling at Not Impossible Labs provides an inspiring example of how 3D printers can make a difference in the world.

Why should the Library offer a MakerSpace environment? According to Mick, its time to start planning for the impossible – the future!

The library is an ideal place to introduce people to 3D technology. By providing computers and software to work on 3D projects, as well as a place to print these new creations, the library can help people step into a new world. They can be the “go-to” place for their students and patrons by enabling them to send the file(s) they want printed. The library will provide a time/cost estimate and print the items for pickup. See 3D rose example

As with any transition, libraries and educators need to be prepared before they offer such a service.There are few things more frustrating to patrons than seeing a service offered that then can’t be delivered! To avoid this, look for 3D printers that don’t require a lot of maintenance, and make sure staff have the technical training to manage the equipment, enabling them to share “making” skills with the community. For example, what will you do if you need to “level the build plate” or get help when the machine gets stuck? Investing in the necessary training for staff is essential; in a digital world, the library staff is actually more important than ever.

The Library MakerSpace will take a lot of work from the community to get started. The library staff will need to develop policies and procedures for MakerSpace services and equipment. For example, if you want to allow people use to hands-on tools you will need to provide space to work and a reasonable length of time to do so. This requires user policies, plans for time limits, and more.

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How does the 3D printer work?

The 3D printer system works like an automated cake maker; cold plastic is loaded into the machine and fed through a tube that is heated. The liquidized plastic is pushed through a tube like a decorator that writes “happy birthday” on a cake. This is a simplistic description that can be expanded to incorporate metal, wood and biodegradable plastic printing.

Product Ideas

The costs for entry into 3D library makerspaces is roughly $1,500 to $2,500 depending on the Makerbot Replicator. It comes with software that makes it possible to develop objects. Other manufacturers are Polyprinter and Lulzbot Mini. In addition, Lulzbot and Cura is a good hardware / software combination. Download Cura – free 3D software.

Software Ideas

Software is an important part of the 3D printing experience. AutoCAD works very well with the 3D printer. However, there are other open source options – Meshmixer, Tinkercad, Cura and/or AutoDesk 123D. This software needs to be intuitive and easy to work with and designed specifically to produce 3D-printable model files.

Once your library is also a makerspace, you may be able to connect your library to other MakerSpaces. Go to Skyforge and check out this service; it links all of the 3D printers together.

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Rethinking your library space? Start with a Plan

The term “library collection” is always subject to interpretation; today, it can mean many different things. A library with no books? It’s not impossible anymore. Even within a traditional library, learning spaces and computer labs will emerge, offering new ways to collaborate, learn and use a library’s resources. Are you thinking of designing a space like this, or somehow rethinking your current space? Your fellow librarians, educators and public leaders believe the library can offer more than just books, but it can be hard to know where to begin.

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How can you develop your library to better serve today’s students and patrons? An essential first step is to develop a master plan or library building program. This is a document that outlines the goals, objectives and strategies for the future library. It should also outline the service and space needs of the library community. The master plan can be broken into phases, with a schedule that offers milestones for the library to follow.

The easiest way to get your library plan started is to create a planning committee: This is a small group of dedicated people that can focus on defining library services and space needs. It is also a marketing opportunity; you can allow your partners to get involved and hold open meetings to gain some momentum for change. Focusing on collaboration and getting to know the community served will help you reclaim the strategic “high ground,” so you can move forward with an organized approach and make this a successful year for your library.

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The Library Touch Point

According to Elaine Cohen, a user touch point affords direct and in-direct contact with library services. It can be a physical or digital connection. Upon entering the library, a touch point should be in full view. It could be a touch screen, a staff service desk or a kiosk at which a customer may gain help.

Academic, government and public libraries may have several touch points, certainly one near the entry, and others scattered within the facility for reference help, etc. Small libraries may have only one, visible from the door. Below is a visualization of a futuristic library circulation / access services touch point.

Library Touch Point

Display shelving and book-stacks featuring the heavily used aspects of the core collection can be considered touch points.
library
Although increasing numbers of people prefer to download fiction, non-fiction, class assignments, research materials, business information, etc. onto their mobile devices, some customers still favor print. They like the feel of the newspaper or the book, or the steady image that print affords. Be aware, however, that a growing number of libraries have dispensed with print altogether, and that the trend is accelerating.

Libraries with important deposit collections, rare books, archives, local history memorabilia, etc. will feature display collections of print.

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