Foreseeing trends in the future for the next ten to twenty years in library services is hard to do. The fact that, by some accident, some of us happen to work in library assessment does not mean we have a better crystal ball than anybody else. Your best guess about what might happen at a local library or an academic research center in the future is as good as anybody else’s.
According to “Rebirth Of The Library” libraries are evolving to support civic engagement. For example, Brett Bonfield, Director of the Collingswood Public Library stated that free wi-fi and a high top table is great to connect to the internet. The library is a place that creates an active community and helps people do their work. The podcast suggests that we need to improve well-being for Americans; provide places for people learn – by conversation or by practicing and by participating and doing. Indeed the library is a place for civic engagement.
If you are planning a library or improving the one you have, its important to recognize changes in our society, technology, building and services. For example, back in the 2000’s we witnessed the growing use of smart phones in libraries and the use of computers in the library. In fact, 99% of libraries now have some type internet access.
We continue to develop new types of library services to enable project based learning and collaboration as well as individual / reflective activities. We believe the library is an enabling instrument for the community or campus. It is an instrument that makes it possible for people to do what is so basic to our culture to share resources and learn from them.
At the Sacramento Public Library they are focusing on the library of things. This idea goes back as far as the very beginning of recorded history on our planet. We might think that the phenomenon of information sharing and collaboration as new. Some of our libraries contain the ancient notched sticks used to record information. They have special items that can be used for research and exploration. According to Library of Things: Bringing borrowing shops to the UK | #LoT – The library of things is a trend to watch in 2016 – people dedicated to a shared world. So, are libraries about the future? You bet, the French poet Antoine de Saint-Exupery once observed: “As for the future, your task is not to foresee but to enable.”
ACA (www.acohen.com) has spent more than 40 years studying libraries, developing user experiences and library services. We are now seeing a significant shift in space and service planning strategies, from primarily book based institutions to a blend of digital and print services.
Sometimes its good to get a perspective of other libraries to enhance your building project. Across library world, civic leaders, librarians and educators are helping us design and refine the communities needs.
Take a tour of some of the best libraries in the world: http://blog.uniplaces.com/en/25-best-university-libraries-in-the-world/
Below is the next generation library we are developing with ACG in Dubai.
Our clients seek us out because, as library consultants, we offer a straightforward process geared specifically for libraries. For example, how does one develop a library “from scratch?” What services and space planning concepts should be used? What are the steps in developing the library’s goals, objectives and strategies?
Our assessments can help create the next generation library and/or learning space, and we have helped countless librarians and archivists develop and enhance their services. Sometimes, the library staff needs to understand and measure the print and archive collection(s), examining different storage solutions. Other times, the library needs a library building program (ex. learning commons, reference areas, campus innovation centers, etc.); sometimes the learning organization needs a complete rethink. We do it all.
Our research suggests that a thriving learning organization continually identifies and measures library services to stay current. We use a balanced scorecard approach; our research utilizes ethnographic assessment techniques and idea-generating workshops to help create energy for change. For example, we share prototype ideas and facilitate webinars that explore user behavior. We integrate the latest library information systems: our wealth of technology and hardware knowledge helps our clients shape the learning organizations of the future.
Another area of exploration is the Makerspace; these creative spaces are a place where the community can create, invent, and learn. Before considering the development of a MakerSpace in your library, archive or museum, consider a library services and operations plan to clarify your needs and vision.
Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces can be used to develop a self assessment and start developing your learning organization. The Library Journal’s July 2015 article on Makerspaces illustrates how communities are adapting to the MakerSpace movement. Libraries are reaching new customers: people interested in knowledge sharing and 3D printing; book printing; creating plastic items; robots; and IT networking technology. For example, the IdeaLAB, Hive @ central, Maker Jawn and The Bubbler are examples cited in this article. Each of these MakerSpaces illustrate the variety of options available to consider in the learning organization.
Are you considering new strategies for your learning organization? Contact Aaron Cohen Associates.
Below is a picture from our work with the Hillsborough County Public Library/John F. Germany Planning Project
Developing the library as a learning organization is a steady trend in both academic and public libraries. Certainly, there is a need for a new leadership approach that will create an adaptable, balanced structure. According to Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline, “Ultimately, leaders intent on building shared visions must be willing to continually share their personal visions.” ACA is working on a number of projects where success is created by the successful: they are making a conscious choice to achieve greater balance with a learning-organization approach.
The development of such an organization requires staff to focus on building a shared vision. We work with the staff to gain structured feedback. We might discuss how the library is expected to provide digital services, user space and print collections. We ask questions, such as: is it really the library’s vision to defend manual processing? Like other organizations, the development of a learning organization needs to be well coordinated.
The learning organization requires continuous investment in manpower, space, coordination and fundraising. It needs to be both adaptable and locally controlled. The focus must be on improving the quality of the user experience, while examining future trends. For example, how do young adults use technology? Pew Research indicates that 98% of “millenials” use the Internet : Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015 . Three fourths (77%) have a smartphone and tablet (38%) or e-reader (24%) Additionally, 79% of Millennials believe that people without internet access are at a real disadvantage.
Yet, they know that important information is not always available online.
According to Pew, “62% of Americans under age 30 agree there is “a lot of useful, important information that is not available on the internet,” compared with 53% of older Americans who believe that. Therefore, the library still has an important role to play in both the digital and print worlds.
Together, we can build better learning organizations and avoid the “negative spiral” that stems from a lack of direction. Start a planning study to develop a sharing culture in your academic or public library community.
In today’s changing world, library collection and preservation services need to be adaptable to the current user’s needs. Consider the library with valuable space on campus or downtown: should they use that space for valuable books and materials? Or keep it more open with tech and Wi-Fi access?
An outdated customer experience and disengaged employees can quickly make a library seem irrelevant. When collection and service strategies lose focus, funding pressure arises…and libraries fall under attack. Some “hotspots” are easy to see: passive collection spaces quickly look like good candidates to be taken over by administrators to make room for faculty or IT.
But what if that space could be repurposed for project-based work areas? Maybe a new Makerspace or learning commons that includes adaptable, flexible display areas and collaborative seating. This insight lead Aaron Cohen Associates /Library Consultant to a new concept, a library space program that focuses on new strategies and configurations for conservation and access.
The ALCTS Preservation Showdown at the American Library Association (ALA), moderated by Annie Peterson (Preservation Librarian, Tulane University), illustrated the strategic challenges facing library collections and their caretakers. The program invited librarians from esteemed institutions, including Harvard and Johns Hopkins, to participate. Two teams went head-to-head in a debate format on the following topic:
“Funding to support access to rare book and manuscripts collections should be entirely dedicated to digitization, not to conservation treatment of original artifacts.”
The reaction from the audience and the participants was fascinating. It illustrated that library bottlenecks arise when we do not balance preservation with digital access to collections. Debate participants’ statements were indeed logical; however, the discussion also brought out emotional responses that showed the severe shortage of collection development solutions associated with library funding.
Our Library Architecture project work is also about access and conservation. Below is a visual of the conceptual process by Renzo Piano building workshop for the new National Library of Greece. The process engaged both the needs for conservation and access to historic and important literature.
According to the Orchestrator Model, the library’s service plan can be orchestrated with “think”, “feel” and “do” strategies. The development of a building program helps the library staff “think” about the architecture and service model. The strategic plan helps the library’s leadership “feel” or define the types of interactions needed in a 21st century learning environment.
In Matt Cook and Janet Brennan Croft’s “Interactive Mindfulness Technology,” we learn that 40% to 80% of the students researched bring their own devises to the academic library. Students are using the library on their own terms; they find the space that best matches their needs. Usually, they sit close to power. It is obvious we need strategies to orchestrate the library’s services and operations better.
Many older libraries are built like a labyrinth. They are confusing buildings with corridors that lead to dead-ends. This puts further strain on the library’s finances, because an old and out dated building doesn’t attract investment.
Our interpretation of the Orchestrator model is that the building program or library space plan should be part of the library’s “do” strategy. Start by analyzing the labyrinth of pathways through the library. Try to use evidence based planning or leadership techniques that can be used with the Visual Scan. This is a facilitated tour of the library space with focus groups, asking them how to improve the library.
Other “do” strategies include a services and operations analysis; a study that defines the library’s service priorities. This could include service strategies such as program/event development, volunteer efforts, improving the usability of circulation services, web and social media projects.
We have been looking at the proportionality of spaces. For example, the golden ratio to help us understand how to open up libraries and remove the Maze-like affects. We believe the gold ratio provides some clues on how to provide the correct proportion for the service desk, collection areas, seating and staff / processing functions.
Take a look at the model below and start to think about the new types of interactions possible. Do you have a plan to get the proportions of your library right? Get your staff together to “think” about the potential outcomes of programming the library of the future.
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:
A SPACE FOR EVERY MODE OF LEARNING
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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