Archive for category Social Library Issues

Making the Library a Destination

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.

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Libraries Make Cities Stronger

Public Library buildings are local destinations that act as catalysts for urban development.  They create opportunities to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods, augmenting both the visual and social value of main streets, markets and malls.  With economic development in mind, we engage with private developers (of malls, commercial corridors, mixed-use developments); because libraries can provide long term improvements to the tenancy, in turn complementing neighborhood retail.  Public libraries fit in a wide mix of public and private sector building projects; they make an impact on economic growth.

The Demand Institute: tale of 2000 cities developed a data set of economic indicators.  The web site allows the user to compare their community with other communities, offering a statistical database relating geographic location and home ownership.  We believe it reflects the kind of data that will help communities learn about their economic well-being and help build libraries to support healthy learning environments.

The web site started a discussion in the ACA Library Planning Studio.  We discussed the idea of the library as an incubator for economic development.  Does the Demand Institute give us a working model to help understand what gives value to a community?

Healthy communities can lower the barrier to market entry for small business by rethinking public library space.  The computers and Wi-Fi, meeting spaces and cafes provide natural environments for business in the 21st century.  The organic quality of cafes acting as business environments was truly exemplified last summer when we visited Milan.  When we were touring the Doma, we were told that the Starbucks’s model was made in Milan Italy.  It seems like coffee in the morning and in the afternoon are good times to do business.

According to the Howard Schultz, Coffee Bar Enthusiast, “In 1983, while on a buying trip in Milan, Italy, Schultz had an epiphany at one of the many coffee bars. He was struck by the connection people had to coffee, and to the coffee bars which served as a meeting place for people in the community and wanted to replicate the coffee bar at Starbucks stores.”

We believe the public library has evolved to incorporate the Starbuck’s model of a meeting place.   Indeed, libraries make cities stronger because they are stable, strong and resilient.  They support local and international economies; spaces where communities of practice thrive.

Below is a photo of the National Library of Singapore – Esplanade Library with Cafe.


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Planning the Academic Library

Our library consultants are focused on the development of the academic library. We believe the academic library is a place for peer and collaborative exchanges. We believe that hybrid and online learning platforms offer a space for embedded librarians to improve student learning outcomes and contribute to the overall instructional efficacy of teachers.  We believe that online discussion boards, a staple of assessment for online learning, require libraries and librarians to enhance support, for both students and instructors. We believe that the academic library can enhance graduation rates. Our strategies reflect the need to make libraries and librarians more effective in the struggle to improve student success.

The 2013 Ithaka S+R Library Survey outlines how academic libraries can develop new priorities for the 21st century.  For example, the survey states that libraries were more interested in discovery systems in 2010.  Today, most library directors are interested in information literacy and strategies to enhance academic support services.  The report stated that 2/3’s of library directors are moving toward digital resources; something not surprising. The report stated that funding is the largest problem for academic libraries, requiring justifications for investment(s).

Arne Duncan, U.S. secretary of Education, stated:  “Everyone deserves access to high-quality learning opportunities, from preschool to middle school and all the way through college. In order to achieve Pres. Obama’s goal to lead the world in college graduates by 2020, we must work to ensure that everyone has a chance to enroll and complete post secondary education.” As colleges, and community colleges in particular, are the cornerstone of this presidential goal, we  have identified the academic library as being an integral part of the process.  We believe the best strategy to accomplish these goals is to invest in collaborative spaces with professional and peer learning activities.  The library can play a role as a physical space and online by providing embedded librarians to support student success.

According to the American Institute for Research, graduation rates in the United States are not inspiring.  Less than one-third of entering community college students and less than one-half of entering four-year college students ever graduate. Dropouts from college impact the economy in terms of lost earnings and taxes to the tune of about $4.5 billion a year.

The NEW YORK DAILY NEWS headline dated November 26, 2011 declared: CUNY Dropout Rate Shows Public Schools Aren’t Preparing Kids.  The article went on to state: “Four out of five students attending CUNY community colleges need to remedial class work in math, reading and writing.” Within six years 51% have dropped out and, of the rest, only 28% graduate.

As for the graduation rate at CUNY’S four-year colleges, the following was obtained from their individual websites:

  • Brooklyn College – 27%
  • Baruch College – 34%
  • City College – 30%
  • Hunter College – 19%
  • Lehman College – 14%
  • Queens College – 26%
  • York College – 3%.

Granted, many of the students work or have other responsibilities and cannot graduate within four years.  For example, the six-year graduation rate at Brooklyn College rises to 48.2% and it is possible that the eight-year graduation rate may rise to over 50%.  The numbers are still problematic.

Of course, students’ learning cultures, family backgrounds and socioeconomic levels also affect graduation rates.  Remedial programs, tutoring and mentoring do work, however.  The data indicates that 27% of community college students utilizing CUNY’s intensive remedial programs graduate in two years while only 7% using their own resources graduate in two years.

We have an idea…and an action plan.  We want our academic libraries to become incubators that help to increase graduation rates.  Since most information perused by students in our two- and four-year colleges is now digital, space can be freed within these facilities for host of programs including digital tutors, peer support, staff counselors, etc.

To this end we are holding a library planning workshop on May 27, 2014 at the Steelcase Showroom in New York City at Columbus Circle.  Please come and join us.

digital library idea

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Thinking about libraries in new ways

The library of the future is going to be a collection of activities and books.  The book technology may change from being clay tablets to e-books.  However, learning activities are the core of any library.

When we design new libraries, we look at potential learning activities.  We examine the combinations of functions from technology to books to learning spaces. These learning activities may use print journals or computers.  The combination of access to intellectual stimulation and space, enabling us to have experiences that enrich our lives.

Charlie Bennett, an academic librarian at Georgia Tech, delivered a poetic Tedx talk.  He talked about what libraries offer and the value of thinking in new ways about technology and service.  He explored the history of libraries and the factors that lead to the development of learning spaces.  If you would like to be inspired, take 10 mins and listen here to the TED TALK LIBRARIAN.

Below is a picture of a GT library / learning space.  What does the next generation library look like?IMG_4457



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Makerspaces in the Library

The Open Education Database OEDb is tracking the developments of libraries. Back in March, they developed a blog post entitled – a librarian’s guide to makerspaces – stating “making in the 21st century has moved out of the individual workshop and become networked.”

What is a Makerspace?

According to Eric Ries, “Startup success can be engineered by following the process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught.” The concept of libraries and start ups can be part of the process. They can be set up with pre-configured digital and physical assets.

3D printing is a tool for the Makerspace environment, although it is not a requirement. It is a machine that can create 3D objects with a multitude of options for product development and analysis. The MCor Technologies Paper Maker is a break-through innovation in 3D printing. It uses standard office paper rather than costlier materials such as plastic. Its retail cost of approximately 50k dollars in comparison to a low cost plastic 3D printing machine at around $1500.

We are planning to develop a new ecology in the learning environment. It will offer the equipment and tools for communication and presentation, print production, scanning and digitizing in the library. Is the library becoming a MakerSpace?

The process below is a framework to help you think about how makerspaces can be used in the library.


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Library as an Incubator

The idea that a library can be an incubator space and a place for innovation is something many librarians and educators share. We believe libraries can be learning hubs. They can be developed with a solid understanding of learning space design and library planning measurements. For example, “U.S. Plans Global Network of Free Online Courses,” the US government is going to develop “learning hubs” or incubator libraries.

For Lila Ibrahim, the president of Coursera, “The learning hubs represent a new stage in the evolution of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, and address two issues: the lack of reliable Internet access in some countries, and the growing conviction that students do better if they can discuss course materials, and meet at least occasionally with a teacher or facilitator.”

Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD developed five different learning modes that will support the development of the Library as an Incubator or Learning Hubs

    1. Develop reflective spaces for focused work
    2. Create collaborative spaces that can be facilitated – teacher/tutor/mentor/geek squad/librarian
    3. Design social interactions with touch-points
    4. Develop program, classroom and presentation spaces to run programs.

In collaboration with Georgia Institute of Technology, we held a workshop on the Library as an Incubator on Oct. 26, 2013. The program explored our unique planning methodology. Our host Charlie Bennett provided examples of how to develop innovation spaces and maker spaces. He will be speaking for the TEDX Telfairstreet and Tinker, Teacher, Maker, Space: Two Co-working Experiments in the Academic Library @ LITA 2013.

Our workshop took us on a Visual Scan tour of the library’s collaboration spaces.


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Developing a Library Incubator

Are there better places to learn on campus or in a community? The library can better serve their community by providing new services and re-vamping existing delivery strategies. According to “where do we go from here? Informing Academic Library Staffing through Reference Transaction Analysis,” mobility, power and technology are changing the way students use the reference desk. In 2010, over 62% percent of undergraduate students owned Internet capable handheld devices.

According to PewInternet, 91% of American adults own a cell phone and many use the devices for much more than phone calls. With the rapid adoption of mobile technologies and advances in all digital resources, libraries need to provide answers to questions wherever we are.

Resource rich environments can be enhanced with touch points that help you navigate to what you need. The library can offer tools that enhances the users ability to operate in the digital cloud. For example, a plan to define the path of travel through the library can be both physical and virtual. There is technology that can react to our needs wherever we are.

Academic libraries are starting to use location based QR codes to support real-time learning activities. Plans that allow users to walk into an area with books or periodicals and connect to the libraries e-resources are being considered. Librarians are developing real-time opportunities for physical and virtual collaboration, providing a platform to support Laphams Quarterly’s art of learning.

Laroi Lawton at Cuny Bronx Community College developed a good starting point for reasons why libraries are important. The list provides some of the reasons that students know and indicate that their library is still relevant, in order of importance:

1. convenient hub
2. socialization
3. motivation
4. collaboration
5. resource rich
6. safe
7. relevant collections
8. distraction free
9. service
10. ambiance

We see the need for libraries continuing into the future. They provide a unique medium based on a long history of programmable space that encourages individuals to succeed. Libraries are places to learn and promote civilized activities. This personal approach towards helping the library user along with their research is the basis of our culture.

There are a wide variety of new mobile technologies and apps that are changing the way people use information. It is time to accept the handheld librarian as the norm and add them to the art of knowing….Join Us at our workshop on Oct 26th at the Georgia Institute of Technology


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Learning Machine – Library as Place

In the August Edition of Scientific American, there is an article by Seth Fletcher entitled Machine Learning. It starts to outline the evolution of education and the transformation of higher learning in the 21st century. It illustrates that computers are playing a role in higher education. It outlines how active learning software is being used in higher education.

According to Seth Fletcher, “Proponents of adaptive learning say that technology has finally made it possible to deliver individualized instruction to every student at an affordable cost—to discard the factory model that has dominated Western education for the past two centuries. Critics say it is data-driven learning, not traditional learning, that threatens to turn schools into factories.”

During the Top Tech trends discussion at ALA2013 (#ALA2013), Clifford Lynch started asking us to rethink the way we manage our personal identity. The group discussed the need to handle our own factual biographies i.e. learning identities. According to the group, it is going to be a big concern to provide privacy, especially when adaptive learning systems are tracking our progress through society.

Adaptive Learning systems provide knowledge scaffolding for students, researchers and scholars. According to the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford University (SUES) “Scholars researching the nature of creativity have long recognized the importance of adaptive and integrative learning, and most of the rest of us understand it intuitively: who among us cannot recall such a moment of illumination, when elements from different books came together to produce new insight? A number of programs at Stanford have already woven such learning into the fabric of their curricula.”

How does this relate to libraries? Student learning systems can be augmented; intertwined with digital content from libraries. The “Library as Place” offers the flexibility to allow for creative research. Access Services Librarians distribute content, equipment and tools. Partners can play a role offering tutoring, enhancing learning outcomes and student success.

Interested in learning more about the types of products and services that will be offered by higher education in the future? The following are a few adaptive learning web sites to research:
1. PrepU
2. Knewton
3. Area9
4. CogBooks

Below is the Youtube link for the LITA Top Tech Trends Discussion. Cliff starts talking at 20:12.

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Common Core Presents an Opportunity for Libraries

During architectural library planning and through construction, we develop a blue print that defines an overall vision of the desired building to guide its construction. This is includes a needs assessment, building program and facility plan that informs the project team with an overall end in mind.

According to Jay McTighe at Edutopia, “Think of the grade-level standards as building materials. As a construction supervisor, we wouldn’t simply drop off materials and tools at a worksite and have the workers “go at it.” Instead, we would begin with a blueprint — with an overall end in mind. Teachers can create wonderful individual rooms that won’t necessarily fit together within and across floors or achieve the intended results.

Common Core outlines individual learning strategies that take into account the big picture. For example, the Mathematics Standards accentuate the focus on a smaller set of conceptually larger ideas that spiral across the grades (as opposed to simply “covering” numerous skills) with an emphasis on meaningful application using the Practices.

Librarians bring a broad range of experiences with them, providing interstitial learning spaces for students and faculty. They provide “in-between” spaces to work as individuals or in small groups and in large settings. Libraries also provide links in the virtual world; links to important information such as a Common Core Starting Point.

In Common Core, each grade is a package of knowledge and skills that build upon the students precision level. This is called a progression, creating continuity from one grade to the next. Nearly every state has adopted the Common Core standards, each state is at a different level of implementation.

Schools that follow Common Core will need to focus on teaching precision skills to enable their students to grow. This is something libraries can support. Librarians are information specialists providing support around research. The foundation of any library is to provide content that will enable an individual, group or class to explore on their own level. Libraries enable students to practice at their own speed, providing space for different activities to build skills.

At the American Library Association meeting #ALA2013 Margaux DelGiudice told Publishers Weekly. “Now is the time for librarians to lead, to reinforce the importance of having a librarian as an information specialist available to support students and teachers. Remember, what is new for many educators are techniques that librarians have been practicing for years.” Rose Luna showed this video by the Teaching Channel that describes Common Core Math Standards.

There is more to come on the development of Common Core Standards. Libraries are a great place to start!

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Global Library Planning and Development Methodology

The library is part of an organic network of learning spaces. At its core, libraries offer the opportunity for growth and knowledge. They are places that spread knowledge with tools to intertwine business, skills development and education. Libraries can spread access to the Internet in rural communities. They can offer individuals and small businesses:

– Spaces for staff learning, capacity and innovation
– Incubator space for new products and practices
– Librarians for external innovations to introduce and internal innovations to scale up
– The community is a network that is “Doing while learning” at the library.


BRAC developed the Social Innovation Lab web page to support strategy development in rural communities. They are a development success story, spreading solutions born in Bangladesh to 10 other countries around the world. They are a global leader in creating opportunity for the world’s underserved.

At the Frugal Innovation Forum, participants gathered to generate ideas to help people with limited funds. Programs modeled around Scaling Up, Out, Smart, Digital and Together. Participants spent time exchanging ideas to improve life on this planet.

If you are planning to develop a library space plan or master plan for your campus, we believe the “Scaling Methodology for Planning” has resonance. When we start a project, we “Scale Up” and “Scale Out” to understand the big picture. When we develop a library space program, we “Scale Smart” balancing the needs of the library staff, collection and seating.

Often, we are asked about how to “Scale Digital.” We offer advice to create partnerships and re-engineer library operations; a practice that improves strategic planning outcomes. We “Scale Together” during a library space plan.

We support people who create communities of learners or Libraries. People driven by the opportunity for cultural exchange, community, membership, knowledge creation and access to library resources. In a way, it’s nothing new for librarians. We are wired to seek and provide unique resources, providing opportunities for the individual and community to grow.

The potential to develop a library is a true gift to a librarians career. It is an opportunity to increase access to shared resources, enabling individuals to become unique fulfilling their potential to grow.

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