According to the American Library Association, there are 120,096 libraries in the United States. Although the U.S. is a complex and dynamic country, too many libraries are housed in out-dated facilities that, in their rigidity, de-emphasize the potential aspects of their use. It is difficult to represent the rich world of today’s multifaceted experiences in flat-lands that look backward, and, essentially, ignore the on-going information revolution.
Although staffs continue to migrate library services toward e-resources, their work environments in these buildings emphasize traditional, paper-based operations. Too many of them contain imposing desks; reading rooms outfitted with almost indestructible tables and chairs; walls and walls of book stacks; outmoded, low tech program rooms; too large and out-dated technical services/operations areas.
Escaping from these flat-lands means re-envisioning the facilities by emphasizing library performance related to customer needs. Simplicity is the key according to Christine Congdon, Donna Flynn and Melanie Redman Harvard Business Review balancing “We” and “Me”
HRB States – “The best collaborative spaces also support solitude” – From our perspective, the best libraries and learning spaces support 7 different spatial modes of learning. Any up-date or major renovation must take into consideration functional relationships, and be driven by the 7 library interior spatial modes:
Five of these modes directly interface with customers. A sixth mode relates to the deposit print collection, if it still exists. The seventh mode concerns staff services/operations.
As libraries come to understand their need for collections, they must recognize that the book can be in many different formats. In a recent article by the Economist, the transformation of the book is taking off. According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers – book and e-book research, consumer book sales was 15.1 billions dollars in 2009.
In the past, the majority of book sales were in print. PriceWaterhouseCoopers predict by 2018; 7.9B will be sold in print and 8.7B will be sold in e-book sales/equivalent. The prediction means that we will be living with books and e-books for a long time.
The book is a really competitive technology – it is portable, hard to break, has high resolution pages and as Russell Grandinetti from Amazon stated; a “long battery life”.
We believe that books are part of an ecosystem of library spaces. They require strategic space planning to determine how to distribute technology, collections, seating and staff.
Our studies show that the most successful library environments provide a range of spaces. Spaces can be planned to manage distraction; take a break, etc. Libraries can be flexible with adaptive interiors that can respond easily to dynamic operational and technological requirements.
What does it take to develop a high quality library that meets or exceeds “best practices” – what are some best practices?
Innovation has long been the backbone of library science practitioners. We are a library planning firm dedicated to organizational development, space planning and technology programs. Our project research results from questions our clients ask about management, collection development and architectural design.
To learn about library planning strategies, join us on September 3rd at 2:30pm (EST) for planning to transform your library.
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Libraries have a special relationship with their buildings. They offer inspiring spaces to read and learn; quiet areas for contemplation and reflection. They offer breakthrough services such as innovation labs, iLabs and learning commons (ex. research inspiring library spaces). So, how do we get more from our library buildings? How do we create better communication plans that translate into new investments?
According to Innovative library services “in the wild”, only 30% of the population know about their local public library. More importantly, another 20% don’t know very much about the value of the library at all. We note that the library’s fortunes are built on communicating and understanding their customer.
When every library patron is viewed as a new customer, big opportunities are possible. During our library planning workshop at Steelcase Worklife in NYC, the group got a chance to dream about the future and visualize real solutions. They talked about the library’s need to transform and improve access. They discussed the need to create a marketing plan to communicate new types of library services.
The workshop provided a foundation for discussion about the library of the future and the needs of the library customer. Let us know what kind of relationship your library has with the public and building space through our survey for academic and public libraries.
At colleges across the county, there are many students and teachers who feel as if they are part of a nomadic tribe rather than being an integrated part of the academic community. Reflecting on the current state of higher education, this is especially true for non-traditional students and adjunct faculty members. Like many other nomadic people, non-traditional students and adjuncts do not have a continual space to call their own and, more often than not, they have to adapt to infertile climates and move on in order to subsist.
We believe it is time for the academic library to embrace non-traditional students and adjunct faculty to support collaborative work. For example, adjunct faculty are increasingly responsible for a majority of courses taught at community colleges in the United States. They teach non-traditional students who also need space to build skills for new jobs and careers. Together these groups represent a growing need for higher learning space.
According to a recent report created by the Center for Community College Student Engagement: “Colleges depend on part-time faculty to educate more than half of their students, yet they do not fully embrace these faculty members. Because of this disconnect, contingency can have consequences that negatively affect student engagement and learning.” Indeed, the academic library provides a space for non-traditional learners, as well as adjunct faculty and researchers who can use these new types of makerspaces for specialty knowledge building.
As a crucial part of sustaining the economic stability of universities across the county, and community college libraries in particular, the nomadic existence that non-traditional students. adjuncts, and many other types of researchers, experience is problematic. We see the big issues with this current system as being primarily two-fold:
- How is this system affecting student learning and retention?
- How is this system affecting expectations and best practice for higher education?
Without space, time and incentive, oftentimes the relationship between non-traditional students and adjunct faculty is highly transactional. One has to ask: Can libraries offer a solution?
- The academic library provides space for knowledge building activities.
- The academic library provides digital access to electronic resources.
- The academic library provides specialist librarians who offer research assistance.
The library can alleviate some of the strain that affects both adjunct faculty and the students that they teach. Whether it is embedded librarianship, research tutorials, directed learning activities or just being a space where students and faculty can meet face-to-face, the library and librarians are helping to shape the relationship between adjunct faculty and the traditional and non-traditional student population for the better.
“The manner in which human sense perception is organized, the medium in which it is accomplished, is determined not only by nature but by historical circumstances as well” Walter Benjamin
Walter Benjamin wrote The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction in 1936. The rapid shift toward dynamic, industrialized modernity created a pervasive anxiety among artists and art lovers. Could art be replaced by machines? New photographic technology became the catalyst, carrying fears surrounding visual art and, to some extent, perceptions of reality in of itself. Arguing that, in order for it to remain relevant, there needed to be a shift in how to understand art in a modern context. The themes of authenticity, tradition, ritual, value, mass production and proliferation of art are woven throughout the essay.
It is not surprising that similar conversations are occurring now surrounding the migration of the library’s print collections to digital platforms. Incorporating technology, “the machine,” into the library space is often viewed as being disruptive, inauthentic and contrary to the original intention of the 20th century library.
We are finding that these same themes brought forth by Benjamin in 1936 are entering our research process. How do we manage traditions and ritualistic expectations of library patrons? What is the value of the digital library? How do we connect technology with existing collections?
There remains a great deal of work for librarians to transform and create a new narrative for the printed book. The historical context of the 21st century requires libraries to be creative, expanding on the idea of Ceci n’est pas un Livre . The bookwall is a design example that the library can use to highlight the idea of learning in the library.
The overarching question remains: What type of machines do we allow into the Garden of Eden? Tell us what you think.
Please take our Academic Library Survey
Please take our Public Library Survey
We will be releasing data about the survey at our workshop “make the library an incubator for learning” on June, 5, 2014 @ Steelcase Worklife NYC
Image: René Magritte – La Lectrice soumise (1928)
Librarians have the opportunity to guide patrons on their quest for research information, both online and in the stacks, gradually aligning the responsibility of the learning to the learner themselves. Directed learning activities (DLAs) can help academic libraries engage in active learning support.
Instituted by many college libraries and learning resource centers, students can build their skills through the completion of a series of practice activities. DLAs can be effective in teaching grammar, writing, computer technology, Internet navigation, the possibilities are endless.
In 1968 Malcolm Knowles projected the ancient Greek word “andragogy” into educational discourse, as the art and science of helping students learn. As opposed to pedagogy, andragogy focuses only on the adult learning experience. Terminology aside, in defining a way to reach adult learners educators provide differentiated learning strategies addressing how adults learn in contrast to how children learn.
Using Bloom’s Taxonomy and adult learning strategies, librarians can create a library service program that can both actively engage and promote cooperative learning amongst students. Libraries can help foster lifelong learning DLA’s to adults and assist with community college retention rates and remediation.
Shifting from directed learning strategies, libraries offer other opportunities for self-directed learning (SDL). As a cornerstone of adult learning theory, SDL’s are dominant in the world of e-learning. The development of hybrid and online courses; digital library archives that provide the learner with unique data mining opportunities. Libraries are natural places for self-directed inquiry and learning.
How can these adult learning strategies work toward economic growth?
Self-directed public library spaces can be a useful tool to help small businesses and individuals gain access to information; which in turn contributes to learning opportunities. Libraries provide a useful location for informed collaboration. With endless resources at your fingertips, the library can successfully put theory into practice.
It is normal for the community to question whether a library needs to grow, move or be reduced in size. Libraries are transforming from print spaces into learning spaces. The challenge is to build on the strengths of the library as a tool for learning and research support. There are two areas where librarians are making a big impact:
1. Embedded Librarianship
2. Information Literacy
Embedded Librarianship is the integration of knowledge resources (people and online services) within a research program.
Information Literacy is locating research (general and specific) and making it available to the library’s community.
Both strategic service areas enable the library community to thrive and grow.
We are researching how libraries are transforming their environments to support their communities. We want to learn how to make libraries reflective spaces, collaborative and social gathering centers of knowledge.
Please take our Library Planning Outcomes Survey:
As part of our workshops and ongoing research process, we perform ethnographic analysis. This kind of research is invaluable for developing site-specific strategies because it enables participants to share their views of the interior and exterior of a library. Please take our library outcomes survey on our web site.
During the course of formal (surveys, interviews) and informal (observation) assessment, we look at furnishings, computers, equipment and exterior entrance and flow in/out of the building. Throughout this process we generate quantitative and qualitative data that is used to isolate behavioral patterns that will ultimately enable us to formulate solutions for the library space.
A few years ago, we did a full day workshop at the University of Manchester for CILIP. It was a wonderful event to share knowledge with 25 British Librarians, as we talked about library space planning and learned about best practices. The participants were very interested in new ideas for libraries; they could see the complexity of change and needed some answers. It was a great opportunity to tour the library and learn about the library director’s plans to improve the building. It was obvious the library was a great institution; history seeped out of its pores. However, it needed new tools to manage the complex world of libraries. It needed a new plan.
The Manchester Library recently reopened after an ambitious 50M renovation. The original building created a pleasing atmosphere, but was not a great place to work or study. Below is a picture of the entryway after the renovation.
The issues that were addressed by the Manchester renovation came to mind again when I read about the Boston Public Library recently in the New York Times. According to “Breaking out of the Library Mold, Boston and Beyond” the Boston Public Library is going through a transformation that is noteworthy. The entryway will be re-imagined with an open lounge area, new books and casual seating and retail space. According to Amy Ryan, the library will make physical changes to reflect the evolving nature of libraries.
Leaders need to focus on the library as a destination by developing plans for multiple activities and contexts. They need to understand the characteristics of the library building and services. They need to work on simple, complicated and complex challenges. They need to develop new ideas to accelerate improvements. Our workshops help open up discussions, set up a framework for improvements, stimulate attractors and encourage dissent and diversity of ideas. Our workshops help participants learn about the library, creating opportunities for new ideas to emerge.