Archive for April, 2009

Blended Learning Environment

Library users working with books and computers.

Library users working with books and computers.

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Can Technology Save the Economy?

America needs to get back to investing in technology again. It has been a struggle for many US libraries to improve their environments and adapt to new technology.   Since 1996, there has been a dramatic change in the way libraries function.  We have seen overseas projects try to catch up to the high levels of library services in the US.  They are waking up to the fact that:

  • Libraries provide a vast power of sustainable energy.  People grow up in the library building.
  • They allow resources to be shared.  Book, Collection or User Seat.
  • Their patrons use library acquisitions for advancement.  Newer items are used more.

It is important for Library Buildings to keep modernizing.  They need to add learning spaces to increase the output.  MIT’s Technology Review states  “Innovation in science and technology is estimated to account for as much as 90% of new economic growth.  The reason is that better technology allows more things to be produced more cheaply and can create entirely new markets; in the terminology of economists, it increases productivity.  For economists, the most dramatic recent example is the information technology boom that began in the mid-1990’s.” – Rotman, David, “Can Technology Save The Economy?” Technology Review, June 2009.

During the 1990’s, libraries changed their services.  They started automating their catalogs and sharing information.  This was a great time to be an innovator.  Communities could share by being part of the “web.” In many ways, library buildings started networking information long ago.  But when catalogs were automated and reserve services created, more digitally enabled services could take off.

We need to remember that library buildings need to change and take advantage of technology.  We have provided specifications for automated sorting systems, digitization projects and digital asset management systems.  More and more they seem to be a part of the service mix.

To start your library plan moving forward:

  • Make your library building a vehicle for a large-scale culture change.
  • Create a shared-vision organization.
  • Look for ways to increase broadband services and get that stimulus money.

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Example of Manuscripts Online

For librarians and libraries who are thinking about why they should invest and digitize historical collections.  We believe that digitization projects are very good at: 

1.  Embracing digital technology to improve access to historical content. 

2.  Creating public opportunities for researchers to access your collection.

3.  Providing assets that enable historical research to thrive. 

4.  Creating opportunities for your library to serve your community in new ways.

5.  Going to where your customers start research.. online.

6.  Marketing your services to new customers.

7.  Telling stories with your historical content. 

We believe that Digitization projects can increase access to holdings without putting them in danger of theft or destruction.

An example of a successful digitization project is the Virtual Manuscript Library of Switzerland.

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library – the tech answer

The Pew Report Internet and American Life Project did a survey on mobile devises and how its changing the way we live.  It stated that 61 percent do not feel the pull of mobility and thus are not technologically savvy.

Our public libraries find many people confused and disorientated by technology.  Libraries are being used more and more as technology hubs within the community.

In the March Issue of College and Research Libraries, an article illustrated  collaboration between marketing students and the library. Thus demonstrating that the tech question is not just a public library issue.

The team of library researchers asked the students to rank sources used for troubleshooting a computer problem – 33% went to the academic librarian for help. When they ranked sources used for answering a specific question, something librarians were traditionally asked to perform, they only received 2.2% of the students went to the academic librarian.  Google / internet got 49.5%.

We see a correlation between the two studies.  Libraries and librarians need to deliver more and more technology to their patrons.  They need work spaces within their buildings to support the two-thirds who are not tech savvy.

Libraries have new services to provide, because the internet and technology are making an impact on the delivery of knowledge.  The Internet continues to be a force that is integrated into our lives at a fast pace and Pew and many librarians recognize that “techie knowledge” is becoming a more and more important part of being a librarian.

We understand it is a challenge for the 33% of students who don’t know how to plug in their computer, but still need to finish their homework. Indeed, the library must help equalize the digital divide and be a force of knowledge for those students who don’t find it easy.

There should be learning spaces and opportunities to learn technology in the library building of the future.

The ‘library as place’ is a very important aspect of our work.  We see it as a vital part of a growing and healthy community.

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WAYS TO IMPROVE LEARNING SPACES WITH TRACKING SENSORS

How well does the “library as place” support learning?

It is important for the library building to provide natural flow and movement. When there are bottlenecks in the flow of traffic the building becomes dysfunctional. If this is happening at your library, it is necessary to understand space use and the issues that are creating dysfunction within the space. Believe me, patrons won’t find the library welcoming if their path to information is impeded. Nor will they be happy if the seating is inadequate.

At Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD, we have been researching the ways in which libraries function for almost 40 years. During that time, we have focused on the most obvious problem – space usage. There is rarely enough space for sorting or processing materials, or for seating and study. And there are frequent issues with collection retention and book shelving that make tracking the usage of space imperative to the library’s users and its staff.

Most library boards, management and administrators need to focus on keeping the library functioning. They work on strategic planning but ignore the fact that the physical flow of the library building is important. We believe they need to start tracking their building and its space when determining the library’s services, mission or vision. We know they can do both if they recognize the importance and integral nature of the “library as place.”

The best way to get a handle on the “library as place” is to understand the movement of patrons, staff and material processing. If the library has a good handle on user flow, it can manage movement. If it can predict the needs of its customers, it can develop efficiencies. If the library has a good layout for processing and management of materials, it can support increases in services and provide more value to the community. All in all, building movement is just as important as providing information in a timely manner. In fact, it improves information support and allows the library to provide more to its customers.

Before we can provide the surroundings for learning spaces that nurture the individual, we need to cultivate the idea of tracking movement, starting with a program of requirements such as how much time a patron uses a space or a seat. For example, if the library provides seating along the “living edge” (individuals seating next to the window wall), then they need an understanding of the flow around the user seat. Is the traffic distracting? Does it provide the silent space that is required for focus?

We believe that libraries can nurture learning by providing individual, collaborative and group learning spaces that are truly functional. In order to know what works, the library staff must be aware of the environmental conditions. When they are deployed in problem areas (entrance, meeting room, stacks) the sensors allow staff to determine current usage and identify user needs. For example, preservation and archival environments use sensors to protect their older and most valuable materials. Accordingly, staff can use environmental sensors to track temperature spikes, visitor flow and capacity, sound and light fluctuations. These tools enable the library staff to gain an understanding of the functional user environment. Deploying sensor tools provides a way to track repetitive environmental issues. It allows staff to address and improve the library building with limited funds.

We need to face the reality that the future is in the hands of those who take advantage of information. By monitoring behavior and movement, we can get a handle on the learning environment and understand the condition of the learning space so that we can improve the library service. By actively tracking the use of learning spaces, the building can reflect professional service in a more professional environment. Certainly, this is something librarians can use to understand their users’ needs. So start testing the use of environmental sensors so that users can flow freely in the “library as place,” and you can improve the library and the building for future users.

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WAYS TO IMPROVE LEARNING SPACES

TRACKING SENSORS

What tools can we use to make “library as place” better?

It is important for the library building to provide a natural flow and movement. When there are bottlenecks in the flow of traffic the building becomes dysfunctional. If this is happening at your library, then it is good to try to understand space use and issues that are creating dysfunction within the space. Believe me, patrons won’t find the library welcoming if their path to information is impeded. Nor will they be happy if the seating is inadequate.

At Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD, we have been researching the ways in which libraries function for almost 40 years. During that time, we have focused on the most obvious problem – space usage. There is rarely enough space for sorting or processing materials and rarely enough space for seating and study. And there are frequent issues with collection retention and book shelving that make tracking the usage of space imperative to the health of the library’s users and its staff.

Most library boards, management and administrators need to focus on keeping the library functioning. They work on strategic planning while the physical flow of the library building is not recognized as important. We believe they need to start tracking their building and space while they determine the library’s services, mission or vision. We know they can to do both if they recognize the importance and integral nature of the “library as place.”

The best way to get a handle on the “library as place” is to understand the movement of patrons and staff / materials processing. If the library has a good handle on the users flow, they can mediate their movement. If they can predict the needs of their customers, they can develop efficiencies. If the library has a good layout for processing and management of materials, they can support increases in services and provide more value to their community. All in all, building movement is just as important as providing information in a timely manner. In fact, it improves information support and allows the library to provide more to their customers.

Before we can provide the surroundings for learning spaces that nurture the individual, we need to cultivate the idea of tracking usage and movement. This starts with a provision of what physical use is required and how much time a patron use a space or a seat. For example, if the library provides seating along the “living edge” (individuals seating next to the window wall), then they need an understanding of the flow around the user seat. Is the traffic distracting? Does it provide the silent space that is required for focus?

We believe that libraries can nurture learning by providing individual, collaborative and group learning spaces. In order to know what works, the library staff can get a better handle on the behavior in the environment and its usage. Accordingly, staff can use environmental sensors to track temperature, heating control and visitors. They can use environmental sensors to track temperature spikes, visitor flow and capacity, sound and light fluxuations. These tools enable the library staff to gain an understanding of the functional user environment. Surely, deploying the sensor tools provides a way to track and uncover repetitive environmental issues. It allows the staff to address and improve the library building with limited funds.

The environmental sensors are tools that track environmental issues. When they are deployed in problem areas (entrance, meeting room, stacks) the sensors allow staff to determine current usage and identify user needs. For example, preservation and archival environments use sensors to protect their older and most valuable materials. They effectively improve the service outcomes by sensing and tracking environmental issues so that older materials are preserved for the future.

One way to improve learning spaces with limited funds is to deploy environmental sensors. Librarians can test the use of different environmental conditions as a way to uncover the needs of the users in real time. They can create good spaces by placing sensors throughout the learning environment and understanding user needs. They can reconstruct better spaces in the same “old” library building without much money.

We as librarians need to face the reality that the future is in the hands of those who use information as an advantage. By monitoring behavior and movement, we can get a handle on the learning environment. We can understand the condition of the learning space so that we can improve the library service. By actively tracking the use of learning spaces, the building can reflect professional service in a more professional environment. Certainly, this is something librarians can use to understand their users’ needs. So start testing the use of environmental sensors so that users can flow freely in the “library as place,” and you can improve the library and the building for future users.

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Reimagining the printed page

The future of the book is very important to our work. There was an article in the New York Times, April 4, 2009 about Bradley Inman – the inventor of the “vook” – a multi-stream, multimedia and hybrid publishing solution.

The name for the digital book has been something that we have been thinking about at ACA. The “vook” is a great concept that should be explored further.

Interestingly, the article discusses the portability of books as an advantage for the old format. This is something that has been challenged by Kindle and other e-book readers. “For all the hype and initial success of devices like the Kindle, they threaten to strip traditional books of much of their transportive appeal.”

We believe the “vook” is the beginning of a new trend in content and information. Even though “Tradition-minded readers might resist the notion of stories gussied up with potentially gratuitous video and encumbered with the need for conversations between writer and reader” – we believe 10 years into the future publishing a book will be more interactive then static.

click here for nytimes story

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Library Interview Questions

The following are interview questions that our firm has been asked to address for an academic library project. We are posting them because they are important for those to consider when they are developing an academic library building.

  • What is a future definition of a library?
  • Will alternate formats for education, such as on-line experiences, supplant or significantly affect the face to face educational experience?
  • How will science be taught in 10 years?
  • Computer simulations are being used to teach students.
    How does it influence the way people learn?
  • Will its use change our building designs?
  • What are the dynamics of thinking, working and planning in groups, how does it change with the age of the students, and how can a building design facilitate group activities?
  • How do new technologies create new learning opportunities?
  • Students will soon each have their own computing device; what opportunities does this create for education?
  • What role should the outdoors play in students learning experiences?
  • What trends in the broader culture will influence what we build and how we use library space?
  • Will these influence the design of our libraries?

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visual scan

The library building is a structural framework of spaces that support a network of physical and virtual library services and operations. We have developed a measurement approach to visualize each space and ascertain whether it helps or impedes the activities and functions it is supposed to support. Our approach utilizes a series of observations that we call the Visual Scan©.  The Scan helps to answer three questions about the quality of the physical library and the building that it occupies:

 

          Where is the library now?

          Where do the library staff want it to be?

          How do they get there?

 

The Visual Scan© documents activities through a series of photographs and diagrams. Pictures that illustrate behavioral responses give the planning team a description of existing conditions and the problems encountered by each target group. As we record images, we ask the customers to define what is good or bad about the area in which they are situated. Their answers are placed beneath the photos and correlated with the identified service in the library planning storyboard. Next, the multiple images on the storyboard are used as part of a brainstorming process to transform the library.

 

In the past, most library buildings have been linear and sequential. As we move through the space we observe, document and visualize the entire library, breaking down all of its spaces into zones that match service response priorities. Each zone is not an isolated entity within the library; it is part of the whole, a web of activities that must be modeled and adapted to human behavior. The relationships between each service group and the zones may be blurred.

 

We need to amplify the experience. A Visual Scan© tells a story through a perspective of blur. It uses storyboards to help define the behavior within the library environment. It uses photos, diagrams and plans to map out the zones and clusters. Feedback will address the greatness that can be achieved with small changes.

 

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understanding learning spaces

One of the oldest learning spaces is the church, synagoge and mosque.  They consist of a place to study, a teacher and students and a holy book – (ex. bible, torah or koran). 

There are lessons we can learn from religious environments.  By observing learning spaces within a religous environment we will see it consists of two parts:

  • A physical place to work – (ex. desk, chair and book). 
  • Activities that takes place – (ex. lessons from the preist, rabbi or mullah). 

In our evaluation of learning spaces, we like to envision them as pockets of activity. Learning spaces which are dynamic have a mix of elements.  You can have two or three people working together.  When there are more then six to eight people in an environment two modes of behavior and activity take place:

  1. Informal – cafe, meeting place.
  2. Formal – classroom, training area.

Students working in an environment require learning spaces. The way you can measure their success is by observing the activity that is taking place. How do you describe your learning space?

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