Archive for March, 2014

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.

pnw__1395655565_Manchester_Central_Library_1

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.

Library-at-Esplanade

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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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