Posts Tagged public library planner

6 ways to improve your learning environment: NYC Workshop, Nov 3

In preparation for our Smart Library Workshop (November 3, 2016, 9:30 am-4 pm), we outlined six steps toward improving your library & learning environment. Many libraries and learning spaces require new space/service requirements, as today’s patrons use both print and digital resources. Enabling the learning space to be flexible – so light, air and vista permeates the whole space with a sense of unity is possible with the right methodology. Below, six simple ways to make change happen:

1. Have a dialogue with stakeholders about the library/learning space. Allowing all parties to “have a say” is a vital part of this process. We utilize data-gathering exercises that allow input into the process. We also employ the Visual Scan, a facilitated tour, to understand user needs and staff perspective.

2. Create a communication plan. No longer a “nice to have” amenity, such a plan enables staff to develop policies essential to improve reference / customer service requirements.

3. Develop a library building program that will detail learning spaces, partners and services. Libraries should inspire partnerships, programs, events; how do we create collaboration space?  The building program should outline existing services as well as potential new library services and space options.

4. Visualize the physical learning space. Physical constraints are always a long-term challenge. Successful organizations often find themselves “squeezed” when demand outweighs space. Visualizing preservation, conservation and technical services office space differently to harmonize all necessary openings with good human proportions is required. Hire a library consultant and architect to ensure that physical constraints are documented and analyzed.

5. Consider design scenarios for long-term success. Changes to library/learning spaces can be expensive, depending on the solution. Often, a challenge to the library’s existing services can lead to an inexpensive solution. We work with stakeholders to do re-envisioning exercises that help them understand what the library/learning space has to offer and what might be changed.

6. Build consensus with help from professionals who are experienced in library design. Recommendations are most effective when all stakeholders contribute to the master plan. Staff members need to understand the logic of the plan, efficiencies gained and future-oriented thinking involved. The staff need to own the implementation plan; they need a role developing strategies to improve the outcome.

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The Library as Learning Organization

Developing the library as a learning organization is a steady trend in both academic and public libraries. Certainly, there is a need for a new leadership approach that will create an adaptable, balanced structure. According to Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline, “Ultimately, leaders intent on building shared visions must be willing to continually share their personal visions.” ACA is working on a number of projects where success is created by the successful: they are making a conscious choice to achieve greater balance with a learning-organization approach.

The development of such an organization requires staff to focus on building a shared vision.  We work with the staff to gain structured feedback. We might discuss how the library is expected to provide digital services, user space and print collections. We ask questions, such as: is it really the library’s vision to defend manual processing? Like other organizations, the development of a learning organization needs to be well coordinated.

The learning organization requires continuous investment in manpower, space, coordination and fundraising. It needs to be both adaptable and locally controlled. The focus must be on improving the quality of the user experience, while examining future trends. For example, how do young adults use technology? Pew Research indicates that 98% of “millenials”  use the Internet : Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015 . Three fourths (77%) have a smartphone and tablet (38%) or e-reader (24%) Additionally, 79% of Millennials believe that people without internet access are at a real disadvantage.

Yet, they know that important information is not always available online.

According to Pew, “62% of Americans under age 30 agree there is “a lot of useful, important information that is not available on the internet,” compared with 53% of older Americans who believe that. Therefore, the library still has an important role to play in both the digital and print worlds.

Together, we can build better learning organizations and avoid the “negative spiral” that stems from a lack of direction. Start a planning study to develop a sharing culture in your academic or public library community.

Library Consultant Predictive Model

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The Impact Assessment: A Powerful Tool

Library impact assessments can be self-studies. They can come in one, two or 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. This holistic approach can detect 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 by creating 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. In other words, they need to strive for a sustainable and functional competitive advantage.

Today, the staffs of successful academic libraries, and the educational organizations to which they report, must identify and quickly respond to transitory competitive advantages. They must then move on to the next short-lived technological and market upgrades. The library staff must be open to constantly learning and adopting new services—because environments are in persistent states of flux.

Elaine Cohen suggests, “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. This means that a good predictive model needs to produce a deep and durable impact assessment that both guides and accelerates an holistic approach to overseeing library services and spaces.”

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Libraries Make Cities Stronger

Public Library buildings are local destinations that act as catalysts for urban development.  They create opportunities to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods, augmenting both the visual and social value of main streets, markets and malls.  With economic development in mind, we engage with private developers (of malls, commercial corridors, mixed-use developments); because libraries can provide long term improvements to the tenancy, in turn complementing neighborhood retail.  Public libraries fit in a wide mix of public and private sector building projects; they make an impact on economic growth.

The Demand Institute: tale of 2000 cities developed a data set of economic indicators.  The web site allows the user to compare their community with other communities, offering a statistical database relating geographic location and home ownership.  We believe it reflects the kind of data that will help communities learn about their economic well-being and help build libraries to support healthy learning environments.

The web site started a discussion in the ACA Library Planning Studio.  We discussed the idea of the library as an incubator for economic development.  Does the Demand Institute give us a working model to help understand what gives value to a community?

Healthy communities can lower the barrier to market entry for small business by rethinking public library space.  The computers and Wi-Fi, meeting spaces and cafes provide natural environments for business in the 21st century.  The organic quality of cafes acting as business environments was truly exemplified last summer when we visited Milan.  When we were touring the Doma, we were told that the Starbucks’s model was made in Milan Italy.  It seems like coffee in the morning and in the afternoon are good times to do business.

According to the Howard Schultz, Coffee Bar Enthusiast, “In 1983, while on a buying trip in Milan, Italy, Schultz had an epiphany at one of the many coffee bars. He was struck by the connection people had to coffee, and to the coffee bars which served as a meeting place for people in the community and wanted to replicate the coffee bar at Starbucks stores.”

We believe the public library has evolved to incorporate the Starbuck’s model of a meeting place.   Indeed, libraries make cities stronger because they are stable, strong and resilient.  They support local and international economies; spaces where communities of practice thrive.

Below is a photo of the National Library of Singapore – Esplanade Library with Cafe.

Library-at-Esplanade

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