Library Planning Research

Digital Burrito

It is crucial to find ways to protect learning outcomes during the current pandemic. Going forward, we need to build a library system that combines all of the best practices available. Over the past month, educators have been grappling with the options to open schools. However, the schools are not equipped to deal with the spatial changes required and success requires more study. This is not a simple programming exercise, because social distancing and best practices in library design need to be considered.

Here is a Covid Programming Guide that provides a list of places and activities ranked on a scale of 1-10 for risk of contracting COVID-19, with 10 being the riskiest and 1 the least dangerous. This was first published by MLive. Below are links to the four public health experts who assessed the risks for various activities pose to spreading coronavirus.

Dr. Matthew Sims, Beaumont Health director of infectious disease research
Dr. Dennis Cunningham, McLaren Health Care medical director for infection prevention
Dr. Mimi Emig, retired infectious disease specialist with Spectrum Health
Dr. Nasir Husain, Henry Ford Macomb medical director for infection prevention

Pass the Hot Sauce
Our research finds that the vast majority of libraries can be safe places for people. Libraries rank at the lower end of the ranking system by medical personnel, which gives us hope that investments in new libraries and library spaces will make the difference. Our experiences evaluating the impacts of Covid provides a few library service strategies to focus on:

1. Customer journey management
2. Digital integration
3. Safe staff services
4. Adaptive spaces
5. Hybrid service innovation

The Digital Burrito
What is hybrid service innovation? The expanding options that digital business offers can improve library services to the community.

Chipotle Mexican Grill is a hybrid service innovator, who saw efficiencies in the web 2.0 and built food services on top of it. Since our work focuses on library design and digital services, Chipotle is the type of innovator that gets our attention. Libraries are also places where you need a snack and a burrito is a quick fix. On the other hand, these are not normal times. Here are some effective Digital Burrito strategies that can be considered:

1. Develop Concepts with drive-thru lanes, and click and collect services

2. Develop digital ordering and create new environmental relationships (offer room bookings, reservations for study space, etc.).

3. Provide the same customization experience online as you would for a patron at your door

A little history…
Since 1972, we have develop profiles of libraries as library consultants. At first Aaron Cohen Associates would design the brick and mortar spaces for book collections and preservation environments. Later the collections, staff, and user needs changed. We employed the visual scan of physical space and virtual services to understand the users needs. We challenged what constitutes a learning environment.

Our assessment services were built on simplified analytics (# collections, # seats, # staff), which we would apply to different learning environments. We narrowed down the libraries challenges and measured the performance of different space/services planning options. Recently, we developed our own digital burrito – combining these skills to develop the next generation library.

Benchmarking Libraries – Make Your Own Burrito
ACA has been bench-marking library services against our own library programming work for years. We also studied the best libraries and library systems in the world – to name a few: Stanford University, UC California System, NYPL, Queens Public Library, British Library, University of Texas, National Library of Singapore, National Library of the Netherlands and New South Wales Libraries to name a few. In defining a specific environmental relationship, think about the following questions:

What constitutes a learning environment?
Who is the learner or group of learners you are serving?
What is the learning activity being performed?


We can help redesign existing spaces and solve workflow challenges. We can investigate library physical spaces, brick and mortar collections, staff, and digital library users. We can provide the following:

1. Visual scan of library services
2. Needs Assessments Services
3. Simplified analytics
4. Library Performance Measurement
5. Digital Library to Support Online Learning