Archive for category work in progress

Library Planning – Knowledge Mapping Using the 5 Modes

A few days ago, one of our senior consultants got a call from a research library in need of a new vision. The library organization structure was outdated and staff/employees were focusing on tasks that were not a priority. The need for improvement was obvious to the administration. Services for the researchers needed to improve – there was a miss-match in the services and operations of the library.

The objective of any knowledge organization is to improve the way users access the collection. What is the touch point? is it physical or digital? What kinds of activities would you like the library staff to focus on?

By developing a services and operations program, you can start to define better ways to make an impact on your community. You can develop a knowledge map program to gain user insights, increase access to resources and enhance library services. The idea is to increase the resources your library has to offer in a managed, phased and structured approach.

Our program model for a library uses five different modes for learning as a starting point.

1. Reflective
2. Collaborative
3. Social
4. Presentation
5. Touch Point

A successful library builds on these areas to ensure both the physical library and the digital one can exceed expectations.

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Library Planning Workshop November 3, 2017 – NYC

Join Us Friday, November 3rd from 9am – 4pm – Learn More About Library Planning, Serivces and Design

A One Day Workshop to Program Your Library, Develop New Digital Services, Create Learning Spaces & Support Facility Planning Efforts.

The development of a 1Place libraries for higher education, health science, K-12, research and museum space is a challenging task. Our clients regularly ask us to share our knowledge about learning spaces, flexibility, and planning for the integration of technology and design.


Our workshop attendees are normally people who have projects that are either in pre-planning or at the implementation stage.

During the morning session, participants will learn our library planning metrics. They will do exercises and learn from case studies developed over our 40 year history including academic, public, government, medical, law and special libraries. Workshops include examples of: library program measurements, project management, service point design, data analytics, logistics and budget / capital management

During the afternoon session, we will tour Steelcase to learn about different types of learning environments. If you would like more info about the NYC Experience download the brochure below.

NYC Space Planning and Design Experience – Guide for Steelcase Worklife (1)

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The Accessible, Sustainable, and Reusable Research Space


A Library is a place to utilize various forms of learning tools including augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), 3D printing and makerspace / hackable zones. The idea is to enhance digital thinking, and the curricula of the educational system. Modern learning environments are generally designed around behavior i.e. ACA’s five learning modes (collaborative, group, presentation, reflective and meeting point). However, we now see digital thinking as a mode to explore.

Digital thinking is an essential intellectual process in the post-industrial age. No longer is it necessary to travel to specific places to work with colleagues, or to find and then peruse important material. Computerization and the Internet enables us to draw ideas and skills from individuals situated in any time zone, anywhere in the world, or to tap into libraries of databases that have the information we seek. In education, digital thinking enables students, faculty and administrators to connect with colleagues or with one another, wherever they are — or to find the information they need at any time day or night.

Our library service and operations assessments include round table discussions with business partners and target user(s) to develop such environments. We try to understand how to make the service more accessible, sustainable, and usable. We ask questions to understand the researchers priorities. For example:

  • What kinds of services does your research environment provide?
  • How is the collection used to support your research community?
  • Does the library provide a flexible environment?
  • What are the compromises you must make because you don’t have a research space planning strategy?
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    The Plausibility of a Virtual Library Concept

    Mobile devices once represented a “new frontier” in library service, offering more access and connectivity than ever before. Today, Virtual Reality (VR) applications represent the next wave in libraries. Motion-controlled technology will enable us to step into another world, no longer tethered only to the physical library space. Users will no longer be spectators but participants in the virtual library.

    This new technology offers exciting opportunities for knowledge management applications. For example, Kevin He, founder of Midas Touch, is developing physics-based animation games that incorporate real-world movements with the screen view. In the future, the availability of headsets will make it possible for library users to experience different worlds.

    VR technology growth is an indicator that things are changing in the research landscape: academic librarians and/or provosts looking to enhance research experiences need to pay attention this topic. Investment in a VR space will enable institutions to offer more value to students; these spaces and technology programs can further enhance student success. For example, a VR program might provide an enhanced experience such as being at the Grand Canyon, adding a new way for students to use information.
    Library planning for VR

    Planning these spaces will require new program ideas with a flexible library design. This isn’t about individual learning; virtual reality library will be a group space. Additionally, we will need programs and designs that offer safeguards for the distracted. Incorporating this new technology will require a library program that will help drive collaboration, knowledge and innovation in order to meet the needs of tomorrow.

    The five P’s–purpose, place, people, programs, and partnership–are a starting point for the library staff and knowledge management business teams. They will need to research how to blend library services in both physical and virtual worlds. They will need to offer cultural and educational experiences in both physical and virtual learning environments. VR technology has the potential to drive innovation, enabling research to happen all in one room or space. ACA can help libraries determine the hardware, software and spatial requirements for the virtual reality library.

    Below is a picture of Project Morpheus for PS4

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    Learning Commons – Collection Development

    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.”

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    Innovation at the Library 2016

    ACA Purpose DiagramForeseeing 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.”

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    Best Libraries in the World

    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.

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    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

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    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.

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    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.

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