The library building, once a fortress for knowledge, is ready to undertake a renaissance and change for the better. There’s no question that we’re living in a digital age, but in the “The Revenge of the Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter,” David Sax tells the stories of businesses that have found a market selling “vintage” items like paper notebooks, records and stationery. Recently, we found that libraries are having the same renewed interest. Especially, during their book sales and public events.
The PBS recording between WNYC Leonard Lopate and Author David Sax. includes a conversation about the renewed interest analog items. We can validate this notion from our experiences in the library world. During the interview, the author discusses the limited appeal of the purely digital life and the need to have books. Interestingly, we find this opportunity at every library we visit. So, the margin of success is obvious – community libraries and sharing local analog content distinguishes itself from the digital experience.
A better library building and service, flexible in a sense that the library has inspiring spaces, is perpetual. The need for more storage of books and materials is becoming reality with technology. Even in the small town we need to create jobs, get our services locally and create spaces that enhance our community.
We can learn from lessons from around the world to help us. For example, Michael Murphy (architect) provides an inspiring TED talk about how we can create a better world through architecture. He says that low fab techniques such as sourcing locally and giving people the dignity and role to play in the development of a hospital will get better results. We can see many similarities between his talk and the work we do at Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD
You may see the Michael Murphy TED Talk – Architecture that Heals
Below is a graphic we developed to understand the difference between library space planning, technology and design. The world is not a binary thing – we need to be able to experience our libraries and learning environments as shared environments for growth.
In preparation for our Smart Library Workshop (November 3, 2016, 9:30 am-4 pm), we outlined six steps toward improving your library & learning environment. Many libraries and learning spaces require new space/service requirements, as today’s patrons use both print and digital resources. Enabling the learning space to be flexible – so light, air and vista permeates the whole space with a sense of unity is possible with the right methodology. Below, six simple ways to make change happen:
1. Have a dialogue with stakeholders about the library/learning space. Allowing all parties to “have a say” is a vital part of this process. We utilize data-gathering exercises that allow input into the process. We also employ the Visual Scan, a facilitated tour, to understand user needs and staff perspective.
2. Create a communication plan. No longer a “nice to have” amenity, such a plan enables staff to develop policies essential to improve reference / customer service requirements.
3. Develop a library building program that will detail learning spaces, partners and services. Libraries should inspire partnerships, programs, events; how do we create collaboration space? The building program should outline existing services as well as potential new library services and space options.
4. Visualize the physical learning space. Physical constraints are always a long-term challenge. Successful organizations often find themselves “squeezed” when demand outweighs space. Visualizing preservation, conservation and technical services office space differently to harmonize all necessary openings with good human proportions is required. Hire a library consultant and architect to ensure that physical constraints are documented and analyzed.
5. Consider design scenarios for long-term success. Changes to library/learning spaces can be expensive, depending on the solution. Often, a challenge to the library’s existing services can lead to an inexpensive solution. We work with stakeholders to do re-envisioning exercises that help them understand what the library/learning space has to offer and what might be changed.
6. Build consensus with help from professionals who are experienced in library design. Recommendations are most effective when all stakeholders contribute to the master plan. Staff members need to understand the logic of the plan, efficiencies gained and future-oriented thinking involved. The staff need to own the implementation plan; they need a role developing strategies to improve the outcome.
What is the value of the library?
Learning spaces need to be positioned to provide access, skill development and the right context for learning to grow. Come join us on Thursday, November 3, 2016 at Steelcase NYC to learn how to develop highly integrated learning spaces.
Modern research libraries perform a number of critical functions: they provide space and tools for learning. The library’s capacity to drive opportunity and success in today’s knowledge-based economy requires proven methods for programming library services and operations. Whether it is change across all facets of the research organization; academic libraries have the potential to greatly impact education and learning. The library’s fundamental people, place and platforms are core to its mission.
Reasons for Libraries
1. Libraries offer a buffer between work space and home space
2. They create social capital through group and collaborative learning
3. They provide access to research materials
4. They provide spaces that support all content formats
At a functional level, the basic concept of library is not antiquated. The library space remains vital and important in the context of a learning model. We have a lot to learn about the use of the library and the behavior of the patrons. It is time to use simple technology to measure the library building; use this information to improve services.
The language of library spaces and collections is traditionally tied to a paper, emphasizing physical qualities over functional characteristics. The challenge is to articulate the essential characteristics of the library space in terms that make sense for today’s user. We are developing library programs based on new data, measuring the learning environment in innovative ways.
ACA has the capabilities to provide Google-Analytics-style dashboards for our library projects. We can help you analyze library building: movement of patons, number of visits, what patrons browsed, what parts of the library were busy during which parts of the day, and more.
If you are a librarian that is on a limited budget, check out “Measure the Future” – they are developing crowd sourcing bots to support libraries that want to asses their space. They are creating simple and inexpensive sensors that can collect data about building usage that is now invisible. The pilot programs can be replicated at your library with students from the local scout club.
Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD is striving to provide strategic design solutions. We help libraries and librarians make strategic decisions that create more efficient and effective experiences for their patrons. Contact ACA if you have a library service planning or space assessment project
We see libraries with no limits, based on the expansion of digital content. But the expansion of digital material leads to the need for a guide. According to Eric Maslowski, co-director of the Digital Media Commons at the University of Michigan, “I think of us as Sherpas through the digital landscape.” This “guide” analogy is apt: Libraries offer both access to expensive tools and unique knowledge of the tools offered. Thus, a “digital Sherpa” can lead you to your research article or support you through your learning journey.
Libraries have been evolving for years; the need for space and service planning is ongoing. The academic library has been under pressure to change: from competing academic services that keep University libraries from gaining momentum, to a need for long-term investments in the physical building. We work with academic librarians and academic service specialists to develop an effective Learning Commons. We help counter limits on librarians’ effectiveness and on the space available for study, research and digital “mountaineering.” Effective spaces enable staff to effectively guide students and faculty to the right material.
We are working on a new Library Operations Model. It focuses on the service platforms. It offers two advantages over traditional modes:
To begin, gather a strategic planning team and start a self study. We can help develop activities to guide you through library service changes. If you need some ideas on how to start a workshop, take a look at Amy Hewitt’s SOAR sample agenda.
What is the third place? It is a library or community center, learning commons or co-working space. In a community or campus building, the third place is the library. It provides social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home (“first place”) and the workplace (“second place”). In the library planning world, the third place concept helps the project team search of answers. It helps us develop the library space plan with spaces for students and co-workers – young and old.
According to Nancy Murrey-Settle (YALSA) “When 3rd Place is Good. Empowering Students in the Library” the high school library is one of the few places where students are given decision-making power. ‘ Sure, it is the decision-making power over their own actions, but, that is where empowerment starts. ‘ When they walk through that library door, decisions await. ‘ Where to sit, computer or table? ‘ Do they need to work, or socialize a bit?
We remember Boarders Books and its periodical / coffee bar / newspaper reading areas, than Starbucks with convenient Wi-Fi locations to support mobile work. Now, Staples and Workbar are developing their own ‘third place’, offing co-working membership areas and prescheduled meeting spaces.
The environment for work in the 21st century is changing, requiring academic and public libraries to think about their space differently. The Staples and Workbar project is an example of a high-end workspaces, conference rooms and private phones rooms that is part of the ‘third place’ transformation of work. The retail spaces are programmed to be between 2,500 o 3,500 sq. ft. and offer collaboration spaces as well as wi-fi, printers and ‘bottomless’ coffee and tea to keep the connectivity and productivity flowing.
We think of the library as part of a hub and spoke network of learning spaces on campuses or in a community. Co-working spaces link students to project-based learning activities; they are often convenient locations with extended hours to support study activities on campus. The Pubic Library’s efforts to be a ‘third place’ provides co-working space for small business customers, independent professionals, startups and the mobile workforce. Below is an example of an adaptable Library…
There has been a noticeable shift in the education environment, creating new challenges for anyone managing a campus, school or research institution. The buildings on campus are becoming more collaborative and student success oriented. The classrooms, hallways and dorms are morphing into a creative biosphere with areas for students to study in a variety of library-like environments. These are environments that allow for mobility in what we call a Learning Commons.
The development of the Learning Commons requires a sustainable plan for development. The digital library has become a catalyst for interdisciplinary collaborations; spaces to work that is not isolated. It is a time when the library, schools and campuses need to evolve and transform into a more effective environment.
Closely aligned with the development of the learning commons is the use of library collections in a sustainable manner. In the “The Art of Weeding | Collection Management by Ian Chant,”Circulation frequently rises after a weeding project, however counter-intuitive that may seem.” Most importantly, managing the collection helps the library manage its space and services. It means that the library can provide a variety of spaces for different types of activities, including collaboration, group meetings and quiet study.
Sustainable collection development means more than weeding the library collection. It includes aging materials out and developing policies that help make sound decisions. Collection Development can be a self study or part of a library services and operations study. According to entrepreneur what Tony Hsieh, “you fail at something, you wonder how all these other people are doing it so effortlessly, but those ups and downs are part of every eventual success story.”
Which vision of the future best describes research libraries in the 21st century? Access or Conservation? Some futurists envision the research library to be a truly digital environment. However, technology has a way of isolating us; the library is also a place for communities of practice. At the core, we know that books and journals print or digital are part of the learning environment. They create opportunities for the library building to be permanent and sustainable.
The research library continues to be a blended environment that includes printed materials. In most cases, a place for learning and a repository of books and journals which support academic discourse and preservation/conservation activities. However, embracing digital humanities is a growing trend – / digital humanities blogs to watch. The long tail, as first described by Chris Anderson at Wired Magazine, is becoming more and more find-able in the digital world. It is now possible for research libraries to be teaching centers to help navigate scholarly information published all over the world.
By gaining a thorough understanding of what it takes to be dynamic learning environment, the library must be configured for project based learning activities. The library can show a better return on investment for digital knowledge resources by offering different types of learning spaces.
According to Michael Stevens / tame the web – “The way that many young people are using information technologies is changing the way the world works….” To respond to changing student use of technology we are programming media walls and/or large plasma/LED installations into libraries. Our programming methods incorporate new types of interactive media that responds to how student use technology. The set ups help the student navigate information technology in the physical library.
The culture we’ve tried to build at Aaron Cohen Associates emphasizes being strategic and respectful. If we want our libraries to emphasize project based learning, than we have to respect new ways of working in the library environment.
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.