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.