• Library Planning Research,  library technology,  Space Planning

    Planning a Redesign? Let Human Behavior be Your Guide

    For an effective library redesign, let human behavior be your guide. In our work, we have found that people engage in five types of behavior: reflective, social, presentation, collaboration and touchpoint (contact with staff). This concept relates to furniture as well: Steelcase’s  Library Transforms to Learning Commons defined private/alone, private/together, and public/together spaces as part of their strategies to integrate new contemporary furniture into the learning environment.

    Want to learn more about how human behavior can guide design? Join us on November 30, 2018 at Steelcase Worklife in New York. During this one-day workshop, we will share the Five Modes of Learning model and how it can inform your design choices. Aaron Cohen, AIA, will review the ways people use the library and share examples of successful design. Through group discussions and tours of the Steelcase showroom, we will help you determine the goals and objectives of your next library improvement project.

    During this workshop, we will share our programming methods. Creating a library program is a way to outline your space planning requirements. The program is simply a spreadsheet with each space and the square footage required. The list is used to develop an architectural plan that can be used to fund a building project or start an improvement project. Model programs also allow your community members, students and faculty to give early feedback on their potential needs in the new environment.

    Ultimately, this workshop will help you modify design concepts and make the best architecture and interior design choices. When users see their needs met in the new building, they will embrace the library as a community center and a space for innovation.



  • Library Planning Research

    A Golden Opportunity for Knowledge Management

    In the knowledge management world, demand for library services are not always directly observable. It’s worth emphasizing that digital collections are revealed through the use of communications and technology not on their own. This lack of a predictable user experience is a struggle many libraries confront of a daily basis. What about in the corporate world? Are they experiencing the same type of disconnection between the research product and the availability of that collaborative / sharing database product?

    No matter how much excellent work the project team may be doing today – tomorrow their work will be left unorganized. It is up to knowledge management professionals to educate their users and raise the profile of digital collections (marketing or business related). It is time for the project team to build in a collaborative library services that can be used as a repository of working knowledge.

    The structure of library communications can be modeled after our five modes of learning – reflective (self guides), collaborative (webinars), presentation (workshops), social (games) and touchpoint (service questions) to be modeled.

    Our knowledge management research team offers capabilities and institutional knowledge to help institutions develop their physical or virtual the service point, repository and collaborative work areas. We use communication strategies to build on the clients vision, creating an opportunity for the library user to explore and share. We build knowledge service priorities – capabilities to develop the library service plan.

    We use user experience stories, surveys and space planning diagrams to understand the knowledge management interactions and user needs. We develop libraries with the behavioral workflow patterns in mind. Below is an outline of our work.

  • Library Planning Research,  work in progress

    Library Planning – Knowledge Mapping Using the 5 Modes

    A few days ago, one of our senior consultants got a call from a research library in need of a new vision. The library organization structure was outdated and staff/employees were focusing on tasks that were not a priority. The need for improvement was obvious to the administration. Services for the researchers needed to improve – there was a miss-match in the services and operations of the library.

    The objective of any knowledge organization is to improve the way users access the collection. What is the touch point? is it physical or digital? What kinds of activities would you like the library staff to focus on?

    By developing a services and operations program, you can start to define better ways to make an impact on your community. You can develop a knowledge map program to gain user insights, increase access to resources and enhance library services. The idea is to increase the resources your library has to offer in a managed, phased and structured approach.

    Our program model for a library uses five different modes for learning as a starting point.

    1. Reflective
    2. Collaborative
    3. Social
    4. Presentation
    5. Touch Point

    A successful library builds on these areas to ensure both the physical library and the digital one can exceed expectations.

  • Library Planning Research

    The Analog Library and Architecture that Heals

    The library building, once a fortress for knowledge, is ready to undertake a renaissance and change for the better. There’s no question that we’re living in a digital age, but in the “The Revenge of the Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter,” David Sax tells the stories of businesses that have found a market selling “vintage” items like paper notebooks, records and stationery. Recently, we found that libraries are having the same renewed interest. Especially, during their book sales and public events.

    The PBS recording between WNYC Leonard Lopate and Author David Sax. includes a conversation about the renewed interest analog items. We can validate this notion from our experiences in the library world. During the interview, the author discusses the limited appeal of the purely digital life and the need to have books. Interestingly, we find this opportunity at every library we visit. So, the margin of success is obvious – community libraries and sharing local analog content distinguishes itself from the digital experience.

    A better library building and service, flexible in a sense that the library has inspiring spaces, is perpetual. The need for more storage of books and materials is becoming reality with technology. Even in the small town we need to create jobs, get our services locally and create spaces that enhance our community.

    We can learn from lessons from around the world to help us. For example, Michael Murphy (architect) provides an inspiring TED talk about how we can create a better world through architecture. He says that low fab techniques such as sourcing locally and giving people the dignity and role to play in the development of a hospital will get better results. We can see many similarities between his talk and the work we do at Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD

    You may see the Michael Murphy TED Talk – Architecture that Heals

    Below is a graphic we developed to understand the difference between library space planning, technology and design. The world is not a binary thing – we need to be able to experience our libraries and learning environments as shared environments for growth.


  • Library Planning Research

    Value of Academic and Research Libraries

    What is the value of the library?

    Learning spaces need to be positioned to provide access, skill development and the right context for learning to grow. Come join us on Thursday, November 3, 2016 at Steelcase NYC to learn how to develop highly integrated learning spaces.

    Click Here

    Modern research libraries perform a number of critical functions: they provide space and tools for learning. The library’s capacity to drive opportunity and success in today’s knowledge-based economy requires proven methods for programming library services and operations. Whether it is change across all facets of the research organization; academic libraries have the potential to greatly impact education and learning. The library’s fundamental people, place and platforms are core to its mission.


    Reasons for Libraries
    1. Libraries offer a buffer between work space and home space
    2. They create social capital through group and collaborative learning
    3. They provide access to research materials
    4. They provide spaces that support all content formats

  • Library Planning Research,  library technology

    Ceci n’est pas un Livre (this is not a book)

    “The manner in which human sense perception is organized, the medium in which it is accomplished, is determined not only by nature but by historical circumstances as well” Walter Benjamin

    Walter Benjamin wrote The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction in 1936. The rapid shift toward dynamic, industrialized modernity created a pervasive anxiety among artists and art lovers.  Could art be replaced by machines?  New photographic technology became the catalyst, carrying  fears surrounding visual art and, to some extent, perceptions of reality in of itself. Arguing that, in order for it to remain relevant, there needed to be a shift in how to understand art in a modern context. The themes of authenticity, tradition, ritual, value, mass production and proliferation of art are woven throughout the essay.

    woman_readingIt is not surprising that similar conversations are occurring now surrounding the migration of the library’s print collections to digital platforms. Incorporating technology, “the machine,” into the library space is often viewed as being disruptive, inauthentic and contrary to the original intention of the 20th century library.

    We are finding that these same themes brought forth by Benjamin in 1936 are entering our research process. How do we manage traditions and ritualistic expectations of library patrons? What is the value of the digital library? How do we connect technology with existing collections?

    There remains a great deal of work for librarians to transform and create a new narrative for the printed book.  The historical context of the 21st century requires libraries to be creative, expanding on the idea of Ceci n’est pas un Livre . The bookwall is a design example that the library can use to highlight the idea of learning in the library.  

    The overarching question remains: What type of machines do we allow into the Garden of Eden? Tell us what you think.

    Please take our Academic Library Survey

    Please take our Public Library Survey

    We will be releasing data about the survey at our workshop “make the library an incubator for learning” on June, 5, 2014 @ Steelcase Worklife NYC


    Image: René Magritte – La Lectrice soumise (1928)

  • Library Planning Research,  Space Planning,  work in progress

    NYPL Library Planning – looking toward the future..

    The NYPL is a unique library institution with a historical research component as well as a public center of culture in New York. Over the years, the public library has evolved into a “culture house” – a place for community gathering, electronic collaboration and cultural programming/events. However, digital projects live everywhere! This extreme decentralization of library and information services adversely affects the value of the library building i.e. when it looses touch with the strategy the building was designed to support.

    In Renderings for a Library Landmark, Stacks of Questions, Norman Fosters design for the renovation of Manhattan’s 42nd Street branch of the New York Public Library is taking a bad rap. In this age of the Internet and e-books, libraries must change if they are to survive. No one wants to support an institution that does not offer collaborative space, research services and facilities to enhance culture – in this case New York City, the Big Apple and the Melting Pot.

    Although they were once important aspects of New York Public Library’s organization, the time has passed for the Mid-Manhattan and Business Libraries. Library services and culture has changed; so the design strategy must change. We say this even though Aaron Cohen, AIA and Elaine Cohen, Ed were once authors of an architectural program for a major expansion of the Mid-Manhattan Library and on the team that evaluated the pros and cons of the storage facility under Bryant Park before it was constructed.

    Below are examples of Norman Fosters work – the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. It is an example of the grand space Norman Foster will design to enhance the 42nd street library.

  • Library Planning Research,  Space Planning

    The library planning equation and the NYPL example – The library of the future is part Bookstore, MakerSpace and Culture House

    The Library is still defined as a place that holds knowledge. We noted today that books are still part of the library planning equation. According to Libraries See Opening as Bookstores Close – NY Times December 27th article by KAREN ANN CULLOTTA – “As librarians across the nation struggle with the task of redefining their roles and responsibilities in a digital age, many public libraries are seeing an opportunity to fill the void created by the loss of traditional bookstores.

    The library will always be a space with books, knowledge resources (librarians), training, programs and quiet reading spaces. However, the spaces being allocated to books are being redefined, which makes our work challenging.

    Books are still and will always be a knowledge tool of choice for many people. We recognize this fact as we plan tomorrows library collections. We also plan that libraries will be MakerSpaces and Culture Houses and Bookstores of the future. These strategies will continue to be priorities in our planning for 2013.

    The ‘library is a place’ that should offer culture, knowledge tools and space to use for digital bits and physical atoms. Indeed, it will need to support all options for research.

    The new library plan for the NYPL is a very exciting concept with new space designed for learning activities. The big challenge for the NYPL is to create a blended learning environment, not just a vast open room full of computers, but also spaces with books, media and historical resources. Flexible areas with movable partitions and bookstacks with books to check out need to be integrated into Foster’s plan.

    Click on the link below – it is an impressive flyover of the new library planned for NYPL by Norman Foster…
    NYPL – Library Plan


  • Library Planning Research

    Creating Learning Spaces Through Collaboration – The Library is a 3rd Place to Consider

    The way students are learning with technology and the availability of social media is a change from the traditional lecture style class. Many complain that the PowerPoint Lectures do not work and that faculty should expand their knowledge of instructional technology to make the classes more engaging. The faculty resources center concept, a part of our programming model for the academic library, is important innovation in library space planning.

    In the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Lecture Fail? Students and Professors Sound Off on the State of the College Lecture,” students sound off about the way that some professors teach their course and the professors respond. They are having a conversation using social media. They point to a shared goal – develop a 3rd place for learning to occur – THE LIBRARY.

    The Georgia Tech Library underwent a series of learning space renovations in the past six years ending in 2009. There are good photos of an academic library that can be used to explore innovative library spaces.

    During planning at GT, library staff did a lot of work trying to understand the need for collaboration. They prototyped new 3rd spaces for students to work. However, the Educause article, “Creating Learning Spaces Through Collaboration” illustrated a lack of understanding before implementation. The article states, “while we were unsure if we had correctly guessed what students required in the space, we were lucky in that the end product was highly successful with students.”

    We believe that a solid methodology that strives for innovation can eliminate the “luck” in the process. The analysis allows for faculty, students and library staff to explore options outside of their control.

    Recommendations for Library Planners

    During the transition from the old to new library space, the library planning committee should seek common ground. They should have conversations about the discovery process and explore the types of physical and virtual library services that will be in the building.

    Without planning, “luck” is all we can expect from our work. It’s nice to have good intentions, but it is invaluable for stakeholders to have input. When the administration shares the need to explore a change in the library or learning space(s) start by determining the needs of the community, and look for ways to adapt technology. Outline the physical and virtual spaces required to enable your library community to succeed.

  • Library Planning Research,  library technology,  Social Library Issues,  Space Planning,  work in progress

    Evaluation Methods for Library Space

    There are complex, complicated and simple library building projects. Our clients typically ask us:

    • How much space do we need?
    • How much does it cost?
    • How long will it take?
    • How many stakeholders should we interview?
    • How satisfied are the stakeholders?
    • ACA’s approach incorporates a quantitative analysis of library services and operations. This is done with a series of survey instruments that capture customer data (visits, temperature, humidity control, # of seats, # of computers, # of staff, type & # of collections). The outcome is a building program of library services including user seating, collection, staff and operations.

      This blog is focused on the Narrative Evaluation of Library Space, Services and Operations.

    • Complex Areas of Research:

        E-resources and E-tools, Curriculum Development, Collection Development.
    • Chaotic Areas of Research:

        Technologies that Transform Learning and Education Environments.
    • Simple Areas of Research:

        ACA’s Best Practices in Library Building Planning.
    • Complicated Areas of Library Research:

        Analysis of Building Designs, Space Plan, Flow and Use of Resources.