Archive for category work in progress

Best Libraries in the World

ACA ( 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:

Below is the next generation library we are developing with ACG in Dubai.


, , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

The Library as Learning Organization

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.

Library Consultant Predictive Model

, , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Collection Preservation in the Digital World

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.


, , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

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


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.

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.


No Comments

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.”


, , , , ,

No Comments

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.


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



, , , , ,

No Comments

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.


Cohen's Purpose_Diagram

, , , , , , ,

No Comments

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).


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.

, , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

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.


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.

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Nomads of the Academic Library

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.




, , , , , ,

No Comments