• 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

  • Library Planning Research,  Social Library Issues,  Space Planning

    Design Thinking – Library Planning Practices

    When tackling a major initiative like the development of a new library or an overhaul of a document management system, diverse teams need to engage in design thinking workshops. They need to start to discover and dream about the next generation services and they need to share new designs with their funders. Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD / Library Consultants recent research into design thinking for libraries, reveals an interesting paradox: Although people have the tools to do planning research – they do not have a process or the workshop framework to implement their vision. To put it another way, the lack of strategic investments in your library undermines the success of public services and no one has a plan to make improvements.

    We found that Library Board of Trustees need a constant flow planning of activities to improve the library. They need relationship-oriented workshops and task-oriented plans to create positive outcomes for the library. If the leadership goes to sleep, team performance drops and the environment suffers. According to Stanford D School on Design Thinking there are 8 core abilities you can use to kick start your Design Thinking process:

    Navigate Ambiguity
    Learn from Others (People and Contexts)
    Synthesize Information
    Experiment Rapidly
    Move Between Concrete and Abstract
    Build and Craft Intentionally
    Communicate Deliberately
    Design your Design Work

    When Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD / Library Consultants facilities design thinking / library planning workshops, we help community members engage in design thinking. It is a great opportunity to ask people to participate in the design, discovery & development project. The workshops have a cooperative human centered approach, providing opportunities for coaching and mentoring, sharing and building on design ideas.

    Library Planning Workshops are an opportunity to consider the challenges your library or digital asset management team faces and new technologies and furnishing solutions that will help the staff make user experiences impact-full. The workshops will help you learn about your libraries needs, creating a breakdown the design components and building new service models to test.


    Center for the Future of Libraries

    IDEO Design Thinking Background Methods

    HPI / SAP Design Thinking Methods

    The Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI) design thinking

    So how can you start to socialize and create network-building practices? Start a master planning project – help leadership build the perception of success and make the community believe they are in good company. Ask team members about the idea it might start the transition from old to new.

    library design thinking

  • Library Planning Research

    Library Programming – Working to Optimize Student User Experience

    We know that the library must position itself differently in the 21st century. The books and spaces are part of the library building, but the library is also the primary non-classroom academic space on campus. It supports the student life cycle needs including the development of research assets and research skills. According to Educause Top 10 Library / IT Trends for 2020, optimizing the user experience is an important trend in library science.

    When students arrive on any campus, they are looking for guidance on how to be successful. If they find the library as a destination, they are likely to succeed at their grades and graduate on time. So, it is important for academic libraries to create an environment that enables students to be supported early in their studies. And as their college career unfolds, offer work environments and start up group work spaces.

    When we develop a library program it includes high-quality collaboration spaces with and without technology. The academic resources spaces we including in our building programs include tutoring, writing, math, science center space. They are strongly linked with academic programs on campus, creating opportunities for student success.


    In 2020, we will see more demand for individual study spaces as midterms and exams approach. In 2019, we were shocked by the amount of students who found that the library didn’t have enough space during mid terms or enough group spaces for project based work. It strengthened our resolve to re-balance our library programming, offering libraries more flexible / adaptable spaces.

    Our latest strategy is to develop library service programs that allow our clients to build the digital services and a improve the physical user experience. Indeed, we provide academic library space programs and service planning for librarians. We also develop master plans that allows our clients, for example, to change their learning environments from group spaces to individual work areas – configured for individual achievement when the semester requires and offered as a group space during the semester.


    We have been working on the library’s user experience and the challenges posed by IT and facilities for a long time. Our research has shown that all users need the same type of library information services including access to e-resources and databases. But they really need digital asset management skills, tools and training i.e. working with content and data creation tools. This issue is important for the library to plan for now, because the library needs to be known as a central destination for basic content and data science skills building. Many of our clients need digital asset management systems to support both researcher and small business / start up development on campus. Librarians can help in this area.

    How are libraries working with the IT organization to optimize students’ experiences?

    1. Develop a shared project with IT

    2. Analyze how digital asset management can be deployed to support student/researcher content generation and management.

    3. Develop a plan to improve your library services by investing in behavior learning space analysis and programming. Create a plan for the libraries space to be used to the maximum – what are students doing in the space and what digital resources are available for students to create their own research portal.

    4. Develop a plan to improve your user experience – if that means creating a digital asset management system to help manage scholarly research, start with a prototype and build the future.

    5. Create a master library plan that includes both library space and service needs.

    Today’s library is a social space, and a place to work collaboratively. It provides spaces to focus on your class work, but it is also built on a library collection. There are different types of collection development activities and different space needs for different users. In 2020, this trend will continue and librarians who build a bridge between these services will be successful on campus. Below is an example of a Rose State Community College tutor waiting for a student to work on a project. It is an example of the support librarians provide to students in the library.