• Library Planning Research

    The Library Program: a Vital First Step in Design

    Aaron Cohen Associates’  library programs have improved the design of libraries worldwide, integrating architecture, IT and service. A program is the first step in the conceptual design process; it is vital to give it time and attention. As part of our program work, we build connections between people, facilitate workshops and offer solutions for space and service challenges. 

    A library program outlines where seating, computers, lounge seats and group study area are placed. They also show where the library provides circulation and reference services. The seating spaces can be social, collaborative, or quiet and have adaptable furniture.

    The library program can have a profound influence on the quality of your library environment. It is important that a program is adaptable, able to respond to the changing needs of patrons. In addition, careful choices of furniture and lighting can enhance and modernize your space. Here are some factors to consider when developing a program:

    • Make sure your program and planning documents are easy to read and free from complex solutions.
    • If you are considering new seating, test the library space. We recommend self-sustaining scenarios/solutions and interventions. Demo the furniture, ask users what they think, run a library planning workshop, etc.
    • Ensure your library design accentuates natural light and fresh air.
    • Try to incorporate flexible, stackable furniture and moveable walls to maximize flexibility. Spaces should serve multiple purposes when possible.
    • Avoid fabrics, soft furnishings and broad-loom carpets; these materials make it harder to keep the library clean.
    • Use a variety of lighting: spotlights, up-lighters and diffused lighting controlled with dimmer switches can provide flexibility for different functions.
    • Provide book walls with plenty of new books to add more energy to your library.
    • Organize sufficient storage space to keep all equipment, last copy and special collections, so that work surfaces are clear and free.
    • Ask lots of questions, listen to your users and explore their vision.
  • Library Planning Research,  work in progress

    Aaron Cohen Library Consultant Experience

    Despite being just 47 years ago, Aaron Cohen Associates, Ltd has snagged commissions in high-profile library projects that any consulting business in the world would envy.

    Few firms of a comparable size have worked in three continents, and Alex Cohen, MLS (library consultant) is aware of the benefits of having worked around the world; The Cohen’s credit their library, archive and IT planning experiences with bringing awareness to user needs, bold methodologies that provide data / information and a diversity of experiences that help solve problems for our clients.

    The firm was founded in 1972 by Aaron Cohen, AIA and Elaine Cohen, Med, where the two developed an architectural design business. Their firms first project was a library planning workshop for the federal government. Soon after they went on to develop over 1,000 academic, public, school, government and special libraries — and there the practice grew to include their son Alex Cohen, MLS . The team is based in the New York Hudson Valley with clients around the world.

    Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD frequently experiments with library architecture and IT solutions, a theme we focus on includes adaptive library design — Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD – 5 modes of learning and user characterization studies keeps it fresh by staying pragmatically flexible i.e. we design our models based on the behavior of the user.

  • Library Planning Research,  library technology,  work in progress

    Is Your Digital System Draining Productivity?

    Modern organizations often pride themselves on usage of digital material—but poor management of IT content  and digital knowledge resources can actually reduce productivity. Some IT databases are not designed for today’s communication needs, and user interfaces can be confusing. Despite being “modern,” these systems do not automatically improve productivity. 

    Our library consulting team can perform an IT healthcheck. Our planning methodology can be applied to reorganizing digital assets, just as we help our clients reorganize physical space. We can support the end user regardless of whether the library is physical or virtual.

    As with a physical space, the IT systems require regular review. Are they serving the user? Are they as efficient and effective as they should be? An IT healthcheck will help your team to better serve your company’s objectives. 

    We can provide an assessment and recommendations that will simplify complex IT systems. We can offer short-term gains and define long-term improvements to the IT database, platform and system. 

    Contact us today to get started!

    IT Healthcheck – Contact Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD

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

    Improve the Library, Improve the Community

    Libraries have long been the heart of the communities they serve.  Eric Klinenberg is a pioneer promoting such social infrastructure as a way to improve lives. As author of Palaces for the People, he has come to the same conclusion that we have in our 47-year history planning libraries: if you build new libraries, communities grow and thrive.

    Sometimes it seems impossible to get support for the local library; funds are often tight, and people have a negative view of the space, creating a vicious cycle. Restricted library funding can have real consequences, including underdeveloped children’s and teen services. This in turn affects the youths’ ability to network, thrive in their community and grow into well-rounded individuals. Kids may just “hang out” in the street or get chased away from public areas like stores or parks. Eric Klinenberg analyzes this problem and offers examples of the public library as a solution. The library offers kids a “third place” and a shared home away from home. This reduces their isolation and improves the community.

    Part of providing this social infrastructure is designing spaces that allow for various activities: quiet work, social interaction and so on. Aaron Cohen Associates’ Five Modes of Learning Workshops provide a platform to analyze how people use library spaces and how they may be improved to support more activities. It offers guidance on how to distribute the library functions in a manageable pattern, using behavior as an underlying guide for the design.

    To determine where the behavioral modes fit into the library, we use a hands-on method called the Visual Scan. Together the five modes of learning and Visual Scan enables our team to create innovations including more group study spaces and flexible, collaborative areas.

    Tomorrow, November 30th, we will host a workshop in NYC at Steelcase. We will examine how we can redefine the library experience. Join us! – CLICK HERE –

  • Library Planning Research,  Space Planning,  work in progress

    Save Space and Add More Seats to Your Library

    Does your library need to re-balance its print collections?

    Do you need a small repository to increase the library’s seating count?

    How can libraries increase space utilization and improve service?  In our early days, Aaron Cohen Associates programmed library buildings to hold a lot of books. To meet ACRL storage standards, a library consultant was normally hired to determine the number of linear feet of shelving required for the library. Simply put, we helped determine the amount of books a new or existing library building could hold.

    At that time, improving service meant increasing circulation. But in the 2000s a paradigm shift occurred: the Internet, smart phones and cafes emerged. As a result, the libraries’ service declined: the amount of active space was restricted, and passive print shelving and circulation flat-lined. In the modern library, shelving is giving way to an increase in space: for collaboration, for study, for programs.

    But what to do with the books patrons still need? Automated print storage could be the answer: units can be built for small and large budgets, either horizontal or vertical. Solutions can be designed to take advantage of the cubic feet available. Storage is also essential for Fighting Format Rot, according to David Pogue. With the right system, libraries can save old formats, scan them and store them before they are discarded and lost.

    The trend toward active learning should extend to the collections: libraries have added writing centers, learning centers and math centers, and more open space. However, collections remain passive: housed on open shelving, taking up valuable learning spaces.

    Below is an example of a product that can be used for vertical storage. This is just an example to help you to start to learn how you can save space and add more seats to your library. Contact us to determine your library’s options.

  • 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,  Social Library Issues

    Vision Lab: Single Purpose Education Buildings are Out

    In the education world, libraries are ready to become part of the learning experience. Colleges are trimming the space for open shelving and providing more space for reflective, collaborative and group project-based work. The space and storage requirements are not going away, which requires careful planning and adjustments to the program.

    The functions of libraries are clarified at Aaron Cohen Associates, especially at schools where the line of demarcation between social gathering spaces and serious work cause friction. During a recent library planning project, we looked at converting existing book stacks to accommodate interdisciplinary space to enable more scholarly research across all fields. We focused on data visualization and the need to accommodate to different types of learning behaviors.

    The Future Library / Vision Lab Concept is visualized in ‘The Contingency of a Pinball Machine‘ – In Tech Trends 21, the pinball is a visual metaphor of the user who is launched through innovation onto the playing board, with the ball representing value for all of scholarly communications, including researchers, libraries, and publishers.

    “The flippers that keep the ball in play are Human and AI assisted technologies that support the value chain process. Additional support propelling the ball is provided by institutions, both libraries and other institutional support infrastructures, as well as funding organizations.”

  • Library Planning Research,  work in progress

    The Accessible, Sustainable, and Reusable Research Space


    A Library is a place to utilize various forms of learning tools including augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), 3D printing and makerspace / hackable zones. The idea is to enhance digital thinking, and the curricula of the educational system. Modern learning environments are generally designed around behavior i.e. ACA’s five learning modes (collaborative, group, presentation, reflective and meeting point). However, we now see digital thinking as a mode to explore.

    Digital thinking is an essential intellectual process in the post-industrial age. No longer is it necessary to travel to specific places to work with colleagues, or to find and then peruse important material. Computerization and the Internet enables us to draw ideas and skills from individuals situated in any time zone, anywhere in the world, or to tap into libraries of databases that have the information we seek. In education, digital thinking enables students, faculty and administrators to connect with colleagues or with one another, wherever they are — or to find the information they need at any time day or night.

    Our library service and operations assessments include round table discussions with business partners and target user(s) to develop such environments. We try to understand how to make the service more accessible, sustainable, and usable. We ask questions to understand the researchers priorities. For example:

  • What kinds of services does your research environment provide?
  • How is the collection used to support your research community?
  • Does the library provide a flexible environment?
  • What are the compromises you must make because you don’t have a research space planning strategy?
  • Library Planning Research

    Library Functions in an Accelerated World

    In an age of constant acceleration, Thomas Friedman is a Futurist who sees radical changes in our information landscape. In his book, Thank you for Being Late, he suggests that we need to empower innovation to establish radically disruptive new business models.

    Our research shows that libraries need to be updated faster. They should provide services that are fast, free, easy to use, and ubiquitous. Indeed, library technology needs to move from the 2007 model of “invisible services” to those that are visible and allow for collaboration and sharing. This means that the next generation of librarians will provide access to both physical and digital platforms. Both require information architecture to support modern day users with business analysis, teaching and learning, and lifelong learning pursuits.

    Throughout our 45 year history, our Library Consultant has stressed that planning should be forward-thinking. Today, we are trying to understand how the library can function in an accelerated world. What will this look like? What are the decisions to make that ensure the library will evolve and grow?

    Our group of librarians, IT professionals and architectural planners help our clients examine and redefine a library’s staff, collections and user space. To help clarify these concepts, Aaron Cohen built our consulting firm on the notion that we must prototype (what is a good library?) first and compare our ideas with the local user requirements. Our ability to define collection conditions at other libraries make this exercise worthwhile to our clients. We learn from our past ideas and build new types of library services in response to our rapidly changing world.

    A recent example of this analysis: we reviewed the impact of IBM Watson developer cloud & EEG signaling technology to learn how to extend library services into the data-enhanced AI world. These new types of libraries will help corporations use their databases with APIs to improve marketing, finance and sales. These new types of digital library services will use technology to help businesses understand the data they collect and learn how to use it; they will require both collection development and staff development to make them work. Contact us—we can help!

  • 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.

    analytics_-diagram