• Library Planning Research

    When it Comes to Service, Proportion is Everything

    Imagine walking into a library with digital and print experiences, a place with structured and unstructured experiences. The modern library should offer a space for meetings and events as well as a place for reading and working. No matter what type or size, all libraries share a common goal: serving their community.

    For example, distance learning is an unstructured experience that can support the library community. One such option is the  OpenHPI MOOC System, a collection of courses offered for free by Hasso Plattner Institute. Such services can help community members learn new skills or pursue a passion.

    Consider how structured or unstructured your library design is: how much of your space is dedicated to cozy reading? How much to small meeting rooms? What about books and other collections?

    Analyzing the proportion of structured and unstructured services can clarify future needs. Is the library a place for face-to-face exchange or a space for focus? Is it structured to support user needs, or is there too much unstructured space that is not used very well? Is there a service desk and a place to ask for information, or is the librarian roaming? Every library will have different answers, but the questions are the place to start.

    Contact Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD to start your Library Master Plan

    unstructured library

  • Library Planning Research,  Space Planning

    Which Vision of the Future will best describe your library?

    There are good reasons to do a library plan at the end of the year (Join us Dec 13, 2019 @ Steelcase). It is a good time to get plans started and prepare for the future. The key performance indicators for any library service and/or library staffing project should be defined before the boss asks how much money do you need next year. Our approach is straightforward and easy to understand – Join Us & Get Ahead of the Curve.

    We developed our library planning workshop at Steelcase Worklife almost 20 years ago. Each year, we would hold discussions about the future of the library and participants share stories about their recent projects and the things they wanted to do.

    Over the years, the workshop addressed the need for Quiet and Collaborative, Makerspaces and Flexible Environments. We discussed the information commons, learning commons and the need for books in the library. We shared examples about the changes we witnessed in the library environment – new computer workstations, self check out technology, RFID, and tablets, Ipads and the Andriod revolution in Smartphones. If things were changing, we were discussing it at our Annual Library Planning Workshop.

    Today the lack of planning can distort how the user experience is delivered and whether your library is focusing on the right things. Join Us on December 13, 2019 at Steelcase Worklife – share your vision of the library of the future…

    Share your ideas how the library can be a dynamic learning space, community and cultural space.

  • Library Planning Research,  Social Library Issues,  work in progress

    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.


  • Library Planning Research,  work in progress

    The Library of Unborrowed Books and the Future of Learning Spaces

    In the Art of Browsing by Claire Barliant we started to reflect about the book as a trend in our quest for knowledge. We learned about the “Library of Unborrowed Books” – an art installation developed by Meriç Algün Ringborg that manifests itself in the languages and titles of each book in the collection.

    Meriç Algün Ringborg’s art installation looks at the library as a contemporary moment. The project presents hundreds of books that have never been borrowed from the Center for Fiction’s library. The framework hints at what has been disregarded, knowledge essentially unconsumed. It puts on display what eludes us.

    Librarians know that the act of browsing for a book in a large collection is an idea generator. It provides the patron that is walking in the library with an awareness and openness to new ideas, stories, history and science. Claire Barliant reflects on the real changes occuring in our world. She stated, “But with every trend, however modest, you have to wonder, why now? Is it possible that book browsing is already strange and unusual enough to be considered material for art?”

    “Everyone agrees that the future of publishing is electronic, with words beamed to us instantaneously. But in that case, what will happen to all of the books and the places that store them? When they’re gone, where will we randomly stumble on the knowledge we didn’t even know we wanted to know?”

    We believe the library will continue to represent the gaps and cracks of history through book and media circulation. We believe in the digital catalog, providing a collection where access and ownership and subscription licenses are intermixed. Most importantly, the library will provide professional support through readers advisory and information literacy.

    The library of the future will be where primary materials and extended access co-exist to create an experience that enhances our learning process and research outcomes.

    Library of Unborrowed Books

  • Social Library Issues,  Space Planning

    Memorandum – Jay K Lucker – Library Consultant

    We are sorry to hear that Jay K. Lucker, former director of the MIT Libraries, and nationally known library building and planning consultant, passed away on Sept. 2, 2012. He was 82. Aaron Cohen and Jay Lucker were contemporaries. Many times they worked on the same project, checking the work of the other. They competed making the world better through libraries.

    Lucker started his library career at the New York Public Library in 1954. He came to the MIT Libraries in 1975 from Princeton University, where he was associate university librarian. During his 40-year career as a library planner, he guided the Libraries through the beginning of the transition to many digital library resources and services.

    Examples of Jay’s Plans

    Southern Conn. State Library

    Scarborough Public Library

    Falmouth Memorial Library

    James Duke Library

    Alabama State University – Levi Watkins Library and Learning Resources Center

    Jay Lucker will be missed in the library community. His legacy extends far beyond MIT Libraries. His understanding of libraries and their uses will be felt by librarians for many years to come. He was an expert architectural library consultant that will be missed.

  • Library Planning Research,  work in progress

    One Thousand Libraries and Still Counting

    At the age of eight, Aaron Cohen was discovered! He was in the local branch of the New York Public Library near the Educational Alliance – a famous settlement house on the Lower East Side of New York City — where he showed his sketches to a teacher and librarian. They showed them to the Director of the Educational Alliance, who immediately invited Aaron to attend a class in the Adult Drawing Studio. The Director gave Aaron advice: “Keep going to the library and read about famous artists. Then, in your sketch book, draw what you see.”

    Drawing has helped Aaron throughout his life. It has helped him, as an architect, to convey ideas to his clients. It has helped him relax: after hours; on weekends; on vacation; wherever he went, whether on business or holiday.

    Recently, Aaron’s approach to drawing is a take-off on one of his favorite artists, Surat. He uses dots to create images and then, when necessary, fill in the voids. Because it is difficult to take colored inks on to airplanes, he now sketch solely in black and white. When he gets home, he may color portions of a drawing – or, he may leave it alone.

    In Aaron’s early years as an architect, he worked for several architects, including a seven year stint for Edward Durell Stone.

    In his next iteration, he became a campus planner at CCNY. Finally, in his early thirties, he opened an office in New York and had commissions for a slew of houses on Fire Island and in the Hamptons and in Oyster Bay.

    Aaron designed a number of innovative retail shops and boutiques along New York’s Madison Avenue when Madison Avenue was “hot, hot, hot”. One of his beach house clients was a professor at a major university in its school of library science. He introduced Aaron and his wife Elaine to the problems that libraries were having at the time. Aaron was fascinated, and this fascination caused the creation of a forty-year long career planning and designing libraries.

    Aaron began this career with the help of his wife, Elaine, who, today, is President of the firm. Twenty-five years ago, his colleague, Natasha Palevski, joined our office as a chief planner and designer. Ten years ago, Aaron’s son, Alex, joined the library consulting firm. Today, he functions as a major library consultant. Seven years ago, Carol Ninkovich, became our editor and office manager.

    Over the past forty years, Aaron has worked on more than one thousand libraries. He has worked on just about every type of library that there is: academic, public, medical, law, archival, museum, theological, governmental, etc. He has worked on libraries in just about every major city in the U.S. and also on libraries in small and medium sized communities, some of which are in out of the way places. Along the way, the Cohen’s coined the term “Information Commons” which is used by computing facilities in and out of libraries almost everywhere.

    Libraries have taken the Cohen’s all over the world: Alexandria, Egypt; Athens, Greece; Bermuda; Singapore; Brussels, Belgium; Cairo, Egypt; Istanbul, Turkey; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Paris, France; Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. And everywhere Aaron went, he brought a sketch book and a pen and ink.

    Aaron is planning to do an exhibition in San Francisco in 2010-11 to mark his 75th Birthday. The exhibition will be a celebration. In his lifetime, he literally helped developed over 1,000 libraries. This enabled him to create a myriad of sketch books (more than 5,000 drawings). This is exhibition will be a celebration of Aaron’s sketch books and drawings – libraries and buildings, people and images.