• Library Planning Research,  work in progress

    Environmental Scan and Impact Assessment for Academic Libraries

    Library impact assessments can be self-studies. They can come in three forms: Lib Quals (created by the Association of Research Libraries), visual scans and/or environmental scans. A visual scan is an observational assessment of the interior of the library facility. An environmental scan observes the internal and external physical and social environments. It is an holistic approach for detecting signs of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). It promises to influence current and future strategic plans.

    Our company, Aaron Cohen Associates (ACA), has developed an in-depth predictive model for library services and spaces. As a basic strategy, we have created an impact assessment that combines the best of the visual and environmental scans. We believe this is an important strategy for our academic library clients. They need to extract maximum value from their environment to maintain a competitive advantage.

    In today’s technological environment, the staffs of successful academic libraries—and the educational structures to which they report—must identify and quickly respond to transitory competitive advantages, and move on to the next short-lived technological and market upgrades. Their staffs must be open to learning and adopting new behaviors constantly as their information and educational environments are in persistent states of flux.

    An organization cannot survive with a minimalist approach to the future. Instead it needs basic strategies that produce sustained changes in behavior and robust improvements in performance. All this means that a good predictive model needs to produce a deep and durable impact assessment that both guides and accelerates a holistic approach to overseeing library services and spaces.

    PREDICTIVE MODEL FOR LIBRARY PLANNING

    Cohen's Purpose_Diagram

  • Library Planning Research,  Social Library Issues,  Space Planning

    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.