• Library Planning Research,  work in progress

    ReOpening the Library: Guidelines to Consider

    How do you figure out how many people can fit in your library? Here are ideas on how to approach learning space occupancy and how you can start applying them. We included some strategies to develop a basic up-to-date, fact-based library plan framework. You can use this information to update your library services. And at corporations, colleges or Universities, these guidelines can be used to define collaboration and provide individual work environments.

    library consultant social distance
    library planning

    In their 1979 book, Aaron and Elaine Cohen described the personal distance sensing processes for libraries and corporate offices. They detailed library programming according to Robert Sommer’s work, which required functionality to be a priority during planning.

    To program and plan the library or school, Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD broke down the space into functional parts, which we call the behavioral bubble. The Cohen’s defined the behavioral bubble as follows: intimate (up to 18 inches), personal (18 inches to 4 feet), Social Distance (6 feet to 12 feet) and Public Distance (12 to 25 feet).

    Robert Sommer, professor of psychology, measured how close someone could sit next to another person in a library before they reacted. He wrote Personal Space: The Behavioral Basis of Design. He made the case that libraries, Universities and schools should be built first for function (the usefulness and safety of the user), not form (how they look) drives planning. Here are some preliminary functional ideas on how to plan and reopen your library. They are not complete nor will they ever be, but they are a start and approach for you to begin.

    Here are some updated guidelines:

    1. Analyze the behavioral bubble requirements (6 ft. diameter around a space) = 36 NASF
    2. Use a CAD plan to analyze the library – drop in 6 ft. diameter bubbles e.g. Chair and Seat
    3. Test the facility air flow – get an architectural / engineering firm to analyze the HVAC system
    4. Think about how to develop pop up libraries – outside the library or near a park
    5. Develop touch-less services (curb side check in, touch-less lockers system, vending machines)

    Steelcase education developed a social distancing guidelines to help Universities, Colleges and Schools. Their white paper provides helpful spatial considerations. This information can be used to define your classroom and collaborative spaces. CLICK HERE

    Aaron Cohen developed standards for library study space including:
    Old Carrel Standard = 30 sq. ft. / New Carrel = 36 sq. ft.

    The association between ventilation and infection

    We have found fighting for libraries and spreading a program-based worldview to be inspiring and joyful way to spend our time. We want to enable our library clients to be able to move forward in the safest manner as possible. We offer this three Step Process:

    Step One – Please assess your immediate service challenges and ensure a safe distancing environment.

    Step Two – Develop a library service plan to improve staff development, collections, outreach and distance programming.

    Step Three – Develop a new library program for occupancy

  • Library Planning Research,  Space Planning,  work in progress

    Realign Your Library Program: new library space planning recommendations

    We need a new pragmatic approach to library service planning; one that focuses on the user experience. We can provide friction-less services with the integration of data, technology and space planning. We need new standards for library space and services; ones that focus on social distancing, safety and security. — One that optimizes the inventory of learning resources and provides space for study.

    Our team has researched library as place for the last four decades. We have programmed more than 1,000 libraries – see Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD – Here are a few quick guidelines from our updated research. According to the social distancing recommendations:

    1. Group study and collaboration: 50 seat collaborative/learning commons = 3,000 sq. ft
    2. Individual study space = 36 sq. ft. per person
    3. Staff service point = 200 sq. ft. per desk
    4. Learning Commons = 900 sq. ft. minimum size for open learning environment
    5. Curated Bookshelves = 150 books per double faced book stack (DF) – 5 shelves high for browsing

    In his book factfulness, Hans Rosling describes instincts people rely on when there is a challenge. For librarians, the single perspective instinct is a risk for libraries. We can’t go on with business as usual. Our libraries need adaptive strategies to function in a 21st century environment and that means that new rules will apply.

    One simple idea is that the library should be digital. This is a simplistic view of the library and its potential to provide both digital services and learning spaces. Rosling states, “we find simple ideas very attractive. We enjoy that moment of insight, we enjoy feeling we really understand or know something. It saves a lot of time to think like this.” He points out that its not useful to think problems can just solve themselves with simple ideas.

    We know through hard work that the development of the next generation library is not a simple task. Your library will thrive when you invite multiple perspectives into the conversation. It requires your patience, dedication and investment to improve. Start a plan

    Most 20th century libraries were developed with a large reading room to support higher learning (see picture of Manchester Public Library, UK below). They were also developed with social distancing in mind. They can provide a model for us to follow today.

    Academic libraries and archives are parts of larger organizations, and the department that operates the physical plant almost always falls onto another department — facilities management. These libraries, in a University or government, are under constant pressure imprvoe their space and collections. The most obvious answer for these libraries is to reprogram the library to new standards. It is time to pull out the original plans for the library and revise them.

    MASTER PLANNING (time for an update)
    Library Consulting and Planning work will help you realign your strategic plan. At the same time, we will educate your team with an outside perspective. We can work with your team to define possible money saving strategies and establish an updated space and service plan. If you don’t have the funds, these are a few self study areas you can build on:

    1. Develop a distance-data approach to library service planning and development
    2. Set up information and assessment tools to begin the data gathering process
    3. Take advantage of natural and obvious realignment strategies
    4. Build a shared project document: schedules, workshops and reference interview(s)
    5. Define data analytics, sustainable services, internet of things, egovernment requirements
    6. Develop Scenarios to support Library User, Staff and Partner Needs
    7. Create New Master Plan (include schedules, milestones and implementation strategies)

    We can help with the realignment of library staff, operations, services, and space planning. — CONTACT LIBRARY CONSULTANT — We can work with you using virtual technology – start to realign your library space and service plans.

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

    Create a Safe Library Strategy

    Human beings have a natural propensity to create new solutions and strategies when the environment changes. For years, we have been promoting self service solutions to libraries. Today, we can provide real options for the near term. For example, we can offer touch less interfaces using vending machines or deploy roving libraries with as much as 15,000 items. Aaron Cohen’s library strategy is to offer a safe way for libraries to provide collections with flexible, scale-able and adaptable services.

    Aaron Cohen Associates Library Programming for safe library services will help you adapt your strategic plan to today’s environment. It will start with an analysis of your community and different types of library service options that work best.

    • We will help you develop safe library strategies, book kiosks and vending options for libraries.
    • We will work with your team to uncover the staffing options to support the new paradigm.
    • We will impact near term service planning by working with your library to develop a safe library solution.

    We have developed a cost effective strategies for safe libraries. For example, we can offer a combination of vending machine and smart phone app. It connects with library management systems or it can run as an independent unit. It is a self service solution for the internet of things – yes, you can put books (items) in the vending machine.

    • The budget for a self service vending machine starts at $20,000 with a turn around in 2 to 4 weeks.
    • Strategic Library Service Planning will help you adjust library staff to support innovation.
    • Library Consulting can be included in the purchase of a vending machine or part of a separate service planning engagement.

    Libraries need to provide safe service structures in response to the health care challenges. Normally, a self service solution would be rejected because it was not a priority or it would not meld with existing library systems and staff processes, often creating significant complexity. However, a functioning library needs to invest in self service solutions.

    library self service

  • Library Planning Research,  Social Library Issues,  Space Planning

    Safe Library Strategies

    Offering library services can be challenge when buildings and spaces are closed. We have visited many libraries around the world and talked with librarians who have worked on self service solutions. Years ago, we developed a small branch for the Onondaga Public Library that consisted of a vending machine and a monitor to connect with a librarian for help. The set up was pretty simple and effective, offering and extending library services where the county could not add services.

    We believe that safe libraries can include self service strategies. This can enhance and reinforce library services; new approaches for a difficult time. It can also help you push new services; ones that meet the user needs today.

    Many libraries already use self services and have benefited from it. For example, The Mount Vernon Public Library developed a self service kiosk in 2019. They wanted to offer services when the library was closed. See article about the opening of the vending machine Distributing Books with Vending Machines. We think that they can add a monitor to talk with patrons and there could be a link set up to a librarian who is in a safe environment. It is the next logical step in their evolution to provide safe library services.

    From a designers point of view, we need to design social distancing into our library plans. We need to start by assessing essential library functions. The CDC tells us, we must plan for space at least 6 feet (2 meters) from each person. Indeed, libraries need to identify alternative strategies to provide services. They need to prioritize safe ways to distribute collections to customers/patrons. Of course, safe library strategies should include digital alternatives, where possible, but it can include safe ways to provide those kids, teens and adults with the tools they need.

    Here at Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD we developed a library of accessible design requirements for library vending machines. We studied self service kiosks and vending machines and wish to share our knowledge.

    Here are some considerations:

    1. Vending machine widths vary from 36″, 40″, to 42″.

    2. Vending machines height can be from 72 inches to 42 inches.

    3. All controls and operating machines need to be secured and anchored.

    4. Controls should be operable with one hand and easy to use. Sanitary policies including sprays and wipes need to be integrated into the plan.

    5. Create safe staff and patron workflows; ones that clearly informs the patron of the safe way to use the self service library.

    Offer patrons new safe ways to use your library when the building closed.

    safe library plans


  • Library Planning Research,  library technology,  work in progress

    The New Normal: Measuring Libraries for Results

    The development of a library technology plan is something every librarian can use to adapt their library service. Most librarians have historically relied on the collection and the use of the building to provide its worth. We have been working on design thinking as a way to bridge this gap. So, start and ask yourself – Do you need to make technology decisions now? Do you have a framework to get things moving? Every organization, no matter what size, can benefit from design thinking = technology planning workshops.

    According to the Massachusetts library system there is a step by step approach you can follow. We have always used library planning workshops to identify the overall purpose of the library in broad terms and at the same time zoom into the details. This process helps us recognize the user and community needs. We found that people liked online services, but they lacked opportunities to collaborate online. The building provided the space for collaboration, socializing, learning and reflecting on special collections research. You can develop a technology plan for your library – start by building your communication plan.

    A library technology plan can help you identify the products and services that will improve online collaboration, streamline delivery services or change how you support your patrons. We believe public libraries should demonstrate their value, using an acceptable methodology (see ACA Methodology)

    Our methodology is based on the strengths of the library. In normal times, we would call this the economic value of the library but today library services need to be more than that – when the doors are closed we can still offer library services.

    Remember every library technology plan includes:

    • Program Statement (mission statement, vision, outcomes)
    • Community Served (target audience for each segment of your population)
    • Staffing (list of staff and functions)
    • Budget (analyze how to continue to provide services)
    • Collection (analyze how to deliver print books and e-resources, e-books)
    • Services Offered (describe the range of services provided by the library and analyze how you can still provide that service using online technology)
    • Share with your patrons how they use your library – (reach out to non-techie patrons like they were your neighbor)
    • Technology (list all of the systems and build out charts to understand how they communicate)

    Start a self study today – start by writing your program statement, webjunction has a good model to follow – WEB JUNCTION TECHNOLOGY PLAN – goals and objectives

    public library service plan

  • Library Planning Research,  Social Library Issues

    Healthcare Libraries Support the Mission

    Over the centuries, the hospital library has evolved as part of a mechanism for providing a service to doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals. Healthcare is a data intensive organization that needs to stress and flex with any type of health care emergency. Digital asset management is not a luxury, the healthcare libraries provide information services in times of need.

    We need funds to invest in the healthcare library at this time, including support for the development and delivery of pop up hospitals to be housed in community meeting spaces and convention centers throughout the country. This should include a digital library workflows to support patients, nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals – HCP’s.

    Our vision is to increase the support for healthcare professionals by providing updated libraries including data analysis support for healthcare professionals. This initiative will help teams reconcile differences of opinion on alternative methods and expand access to the internet of things (See Columbia University Librarians use 3D printers make masks). This includes data analysis and service delivery methods using library management systems.

    We need to establish a more objective foundations for our healthcare teams. They need help to manage this crisis in real time. Healthcare libraries can bridge the gap with digital asset management systems.


    To overcome any short comings, the development of the healthcare library services will require an expansion of digital information systems investments. The management and programming can help manage outcomes by improving access to healthcare information and analysis.

    We understand that this type of planning will require an experienced team to build a communications system. We also know that Healthcare libraries are unfunded and often solo librarians. They need support to help our communities, providing access to healthcare library services to support healthcare professionals (HCP) in the time of need.

    Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD – Library Consultants

  • Library Planning Research,  library technology,  Social Library Issues

    Learning Beyond the Classroom

    Change generated by current events has forced schools of all types to deliver online education. Today, Google Classroom and Zoom have become a necessity and are ultimately changing the way education is offered. The digital library is a key component of future education. There are three lines of service delivery: social, educational and technological. Plans for each of these elements will support your online learning environments.

    According to ScienceDirect’s article Learning “beyond the classroom” , library tools used as supplemental support in courses foster a shift toward more collaborative inquiry and self-direction. They identified five main educational uses: facilitating discussions among students; developing multimedia content; sharing resources; exposing students to external resources; and supporting self-managed learning.

    The American Library Association outline can be used to start developing your strategies – See Learning Beyond the Classroom: Engaging Students in Information Literacy through Co-Curricular Activities:

    • Designing Co-Curricular Learning Experiences
    • Experiential learning and information literacy
    • Planning Information Literacy in Co-Curricular Activities
    • Teaching “Information has Value” through making
    • Collaborating with Career Services to teach students “Searching as Strategic Exploration”
    • Executing Co-Curricular Activities
    • Application of tools and techniques for managing activities
    • Involvement of students as event leaders
    • Assessing Learning and Impact
    • Reflection as an effective way for students to engage in learning
    • Results from a Pre- and Post-tests on the effectiveness of an academic event


    Healthcare libraries are a good example of proactive digital collectors. Library materials need to be relevant and up-to-date and digital publishing is the fastest delivery method. There is always a struggle to harness the power of the digital tools and collections that are hidden from view. For example, library management software is good at connecting content, but it also requires an understanding of LC subject headings, cloud computing and digital tools.

    Here are some strategies you can use to drive your next generation digital library:

    1. E Collection Development: develop a system that provides access to catalog content through simple authentication and categorization techniques
    2. Understand Library Service Outcomes: Determine and improve with data driven analysis
    3. Study Relevant Institutions: this can help increase library collaboration by using benchmarking and verification


    In this time of change it is possible organize data to improve outcomes. The more students you have, the more activity data you can gather, and that data, when analyzed by library consultants will develop the foundation of your digital library.

    collaboration using technology


  • Library Planning Research

    A Library’s Purpose in Changing Times

    A library’s purpose will naturally change as cultures and technologies shift. The life cycle of a physical building is typically 20 years, but information technology, web sites, marketing plans and communication need constant updating. That means that all libraries need to develop a program statement and list of service improvements that they can build on. The digital component of a library has been brought into stark relief due to recent events; it should be a part of all libraries’ future planning.

    As a library planning team with many years of experience, we know how to plan for innovation – whether it is the building itself, or a transformation of collections, services and staff. We facilitate the process with a series of community engagement meetings and workshops. We lead staff and stakeholders in an inclusive process that uncovers what library services you can deploy within your community.

    In times of change such as this, the library can become a virtual haven. The New York Public Library is seeing a spike in E-book downloads. Libraries are offering digital services for people of all ages, from coast to coast. Ebook Services From New York Public Library  and the SimplyE app are examples of this work in action.

    library consultant methodology


  • 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 special 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

    design thinking workshop

  • Library Planning Research,  Social Library Issues,  Space Planning

    New Library? New Collection

    As library consultants, Aaron Cohen Associates offers Opening Day Collection planning services to support new library development. We can help you employ a series of curation tools that will define all facets of your Opening Day Collection, from needs analysis to setup and delivery. A consultant can work with your project team to ensure the library collection enhances the user experience.

    We will define how to develop the collection, how they are cataloged and shared, and where they are located in the building. We will define how library collections are designed for browsing and community collaboration. We will make sure your library offers a consistent user experience and that the collection reflects support for your community.

    According to 7 Ways Collection Analysis Tools Can Benefit Your Library, the process can be integrated with library programming, including:

    1. Analysis of Library Data and Shelving
    2. Circulation Trends and Data Points to Make Improvements
    3. Balancing Your Collection
    4. De-accesion – Creating a New Vision for Your Collection
    5. Prototyping – Analyzing How to Get the Right Books into Your Collection
    6. Strengthening Funding Strategies
    7. Improve Staff Performance

    Recently, we adopted Design Thinking exercises to help our clients understand their needs. Our workshops put stakeholders in charge of their library programming. We can provide examples of the library programming process to help you understand the options. This will include your capacity to hold items and your ability to design a new user experience.

    Below are some links to help you begin your collection development work.

    Why Do You Need a Collection Development Plan?

    Three Cool Tools for School Library Collection Development

    School Library Design