Library Space Planning with A. Cohen

LLAMA webinar – Library Space Planning – Using Knowlege Management Principles for Success With Alexander Cohen. Over 10,000 library projects worked on by the consulting firm.

Share knowledge and build communities – Knowledge Managing Concepts

1. Develop Social Capital – What is a learning organization? How do we encourage continuous improvement and supporting Antifragile Management (no more annual performance reviews).

How do we measure communities of practice?  Look at libraries from a behavioral aspect.  Look at modes of learning: touch point (service desk), reflective (quiet space), presentation (learning lab), collaborative (cafe or computers), social (cafe, bookstore, maker space, art space).  What are the physical, communication, and human interactions/needs in those spaces.  How do we communicate in a 2-D and 3-D environments?   Uses of the spaces based on these modes of learning.

Service Desk as a touch point: How does it flow, What are the attributes of the community and how does the service desk reflect those?  Self-service v. Human interactions

Another way to measure project attributes for the touch points is to look at see/hear/touch.  For example, at the reflective space, how important is sight, hearing or touch?  You probably don’t want human staff, want little sound, but maximum sight in quiet reflective space.

Use emotional intelligence methods for planning and operating services. A flexible service desk is a touch point that is physical and highly visible.  Example, a student-staffed service desk at the entrance of an academic library so there is a peer-to-peer exchange upon entering the space.

User Space Needs – how much space do users need?

Social space – a person’s behavioral bubble, or personal space, may be larger and have different needs than in a reflective space or a collaborative space. How do you measure library services – and how do you design for those service needs.  Justify the space for the users needing it. Pendulum swinging back to 1-2 person use of the space away from 8-16 person collaborative spaces.

Library as incubator – how does it fit this model? Great flexibility with wheeled furniture. Students create hives within the space as needed.  Expand to include technology like augmented reality, music recording, broadcasting, and 3D printing.

Library Planning Approaches

  1. Dialogue and tour with the users – see what they see, hear what they hear.
  2. Needs Assessment: Space
  3. Needs Assessment: Service (future needs)
  4. Summary of Findings as a pre-planning tool and money generator

Methodology for Change:

  • Discover: What is? What are the best parts of the existing library we want to maintain?  Make sure they are retained
  • Dream: What might Be
  • Design: What should be
  • Deliver: What will be

Focus on the desires of the user community – stay focused on what the community truly wants.  Keep the process transparent.

An accurate, insightful list of program attributes is as important as a clear vision.  Creative Tension and Emotional Tension oppose each other.  Work with communities to understand where the vision and reality match or there are gaps.

Need clear goals, objectives, and vision for the community based on studying the user needs and wants. This helps keep the project vision from being diminished.

Corners as collaborative space, edges for reflective space, and central flexible central space.  Example has pivoting walls that can create large, small, changing spaces.

Design Modes – ‘breakthrough for today’

Touchpoints are service desks. They can be expensive and a barrier to service. Or it can be inexpensive and flexible. Important part – must have a human for it to work best 😉  Service desk is key to library service – customer service, technology sharing, interactive space full of disruption.  The desk should be open, near the entrance, safety conscious.  The human touch of this space – how do humans fit in it comfortably.

Example: Ask Us, touchscreen interactive environment next to an interactive space for staff/patron interactions

Interactive map!  How cool would that be. Space age touch point. Search technology on book ends – also space age touch point. Launch pad iBeacon transponder sends information if opted in by the patron. Student art show ap as an example.

Reflective Space – scholarly space, comfortable, light, big tables, nooks for reading and study.  Volumetric physical space – open, semi-enclosed and enclosed, quiet seating.  Communication/hearing: is it tech space, has wifi, includes augmented reality.  Human touch in reflective mode you have seat size for the behavioral bubble, lighting and power controls.  How to break you library down into pieces and these elements that are important for the environment.

Presence of books on the shelf helps give the feel of reflective space. Mobile reflective space – bar space to perch. Take photos of your library to analyze what you see.  If everyone has headphones does that mean the library is too loud?

Living edge idea – run seating perpendicular to the wall with quiet environment with natural light. Personal zone, dividers or book walls to break up the space.

Collaborative space should be flexible, writable walls for example. More pronounced in academic library settings.  Include technology, headphones, light, open space.  Conference rooms that foster parallel play.  Know that ideal number is 4-7 max and then the space morphs into presentation space. Virtual tech to aid collaborative space – webinars, conference calls, telepresence, etc.

Social Space = new need for libraries. Started with Applestore/Starbucks phenomenon.  Flowing environment without noise control.  Includes eating areas, near entrance, semi-enclosed or open, security, cleaning, flexible AV, odor control, Flexible human space, behavior bubble and ‘personal space’, cafe style. Cafe needs a garbage strategy to be successful. Browsing is still a social activity, but need hang out space and open study environments. Genius techie bar at the library. Barista as a touch point at the library. Coffee and check out your books ;-O  Gaming spaces.

Presentation space – open to expand? Small group or large and flexible space. Bring in privacy screens or large video wall. Maker space and present new ideas. Ideabox with windows as a live presentation.  Screens and dividers with stacking chairs – flexible.

What benchmarks do we apply to understand our library service?  Door count, tech use, program attendance, active patrons, e-resource use

Writable walls in staircase as a way to communicate.

Phase plan overview pre-plan…  <end notes>

My Township Manager called, so I had to mute my webinar.  I’ll get the archive and see what the Q&A said.







Edge Initiative in Pennsylvania Libraries

Edge Initiative in Pennsylvania Libraries

Panel with Lisa Rives Collins, Denis Sticha and Barb McGary. Facilitated by Stacey Aldrich, State Librarian

“The Edge Initiative was created to provide public libraries with new strategies and tools to help achieve community priorities through enhanced technology.”  Gates Foundation initiative and continuation of Gate grants and broadband work with goal to advocate for sustainable technology.  There are 11 benchmarks grouped under three goals:

  1. Community Value
  2. Engage Decision Makers
  3. Organizational Management

Working through the online Assessment Tool and the downloadable reports provides:

  • Opportunity to focus on technology by going through the checklist
  • Assess current public access technology and how it is used
  • Identify ways to strengthen and enhance what is offered
  • Engage with key leaders to share the value of libraries

Reports and tools, like Actin Planning Tool and Executive Tools provide templates and PPTs useful for discussing the results with the community and developing strategic plans and goals around the results.

PA State Library wants to use the assessment as a data collection tool to gather statewide information that can inform them of trends that may be supported with LSTA Funds.

Panel Discussion Points:

  • Why they did it…
    • Planning tool, opportunity to inventory tech and tools for discussing technology with the community – provided language they were missing.  Defines “stuff” that library offers.
    • Tech audit that is part of the assessment was an existing goal
    • Find common tech needs that can be addressed as a group
  • Staff Buy In…
    • Answered the survey/assessment as a group – with members of front line staff, admin and IT.  Got everyone on the same page.
    • Easy to do – spent 2 hours discussing the answers.  Action plan lead to ways to improve.  Opportunity to implement new ideas
    • Lead to tech competencies for staff included in job descriptions
    • Opportunities for staff discussion
    • Way to get state training at no cost
  • Benefits…
    • Learned about library tech and staff competencies – assumptions were sometimes wrong about what front line staff could do
    • Board buy -in – for the visionary board it was easier and they ditched their strategic plan in favor of a Community Impact Plan.  For the reticent board with a fear of failure, the process of talking through the assessment and questions reduced fear and they could look on the assessment as a tool for improvement, not a grade!
    • Community Impact Plans – a shift in how library supports the community.  Don’t look at a plan that gets Library from A to B, but focuses outward on how the Library supports the community’s goals.
    • Expose Board to a new role for the library.  Gives Board members specific language, examples and stories to show impact of services. Advocacy tool with credibility of the Gates Foundation behind it.
    • Library-wide tech training – common goals with buy in
  • Q&A…
    • PA Forward Link?  Combine both initiatives – sell as a complete piece to the Board.  “Computer literacy” also civic literacy and Digital citizenship taught by the library (ex: cyber bullying classes at the library).
    • Could lead to additional grants and fundraising opportunities
    • Involve the Board as an educational exercise.
    • Use to improve Tech Plan

This will be rolled out in February, prior to the Annual Report and along with a Digital Inclusion survey (and maybe others, so the State Library can gather data to help shape their priorities). &gt; Assessment Workbook

Small, Medium and Large: Library Renovations for Small, Medium and Large Budgets

Sunday, Oct. 20 at 2 pm with Cheri Fiory, Upper Dublin Public Library, Janet Fricker, Bethlehem Area Public Library and Susan Jeffery, North Pocono Public Library

Disclaimer – I’ve seen Upper Dublin’s renovations, but just saw images of the other two in today’s program.

Based on a 2009 study, the Upper Dublin Library knew they needed to focus on teen space and quiet space.  Also knew they needed a quick-fix to get them through the next 5-10 years, so they asked for a low-cost, expanded space and went to the Township for $200,000.  In the end:

  • Design – $235,000
    Friends – $105,000 for new furniture
    Grants – $10,000


  • New Teen space and daytime computer lab
  • Quiet reading room
  • Conference room
  • New service desk and workroom

Recommend: Get help, communicate clearly, plan, and educate self on project management.

To my Kansas peeps, I say be thankful for Hans and Co.!  Definitely worthwhile to have a general contractor or architectural consultant on the team to help review electrical schematics and other construction details the Library has to approve!

Medium – Bethleham historic building with no major changes since 1940’s – same fixtures and furniture, plus leaks, mold, water damage and exposed wires.

Started “Room to Grow” multi-phase funding campaign – fundraisers included:

  • 1407 fundraiser – if each person in the service area gave $14.07, they’d reach $1 million
  • Rotary golf tournaments
  • Fashion Show
  • Local restaurant gave percentage of profits = $38,000
  • Fundraisers managed by staff – one person put Part-time into Development.

Design elements:

  • Red, orange, yellow and green color scheme (even painted chairs)
  • Carpet used creatively to differentiate Teen for children’s area and 2 other areas of library
  • Two-sided Circ/Ref desk in middle – facing entrance
  • Revived period lighting, refinished ALL shelving, closed 3 months (staff worked in basement adding security strips, in book mobile or at another branch)
  • Used curved, modular furniture
  • Received a community development grant

Large – North Pocono – new building to replace outgrown 1985 building on 9 acres of land

Had to scale back the building from 14,000 to 8,400 sq feet due to funding.  Received USDA loan, RACP grant (only $250,000) and used naming opportunities and pavers going into the library.

Design features:

  • community center with outdoor porch
  • meeting space – 90 seats with after-hours community access (door to library after foyer)
  • Laptop checkout – work where you want, using a proprietary network, separate from open wifi network
  • Added a TV with CNN on closed captioning to quiet reading area
  • Teen shelves end-panels tiled with colorful, small square tiles – very tactile
  • Reading tree hand-crafted by local artist in children’s area
  • Future: nature programming outside door near children’s area, including a butterfly garden
  • Electronic bulletin board in foyer to reduce clutter and paper
  • Business Center with expanded desk space near copy machine for ‘away from home’ office
  • Geothermal heat, but not LEED certified b/c of expense, but still very efficient and green design and construction
  • Networking took more space than expected

Budgeting and Funding:

  • $500,000 grant and USDA loan = government money has added expenses
  • public bidding process required
  • Testing reports to state required
  • ADA requirements “tedious” – had to change railings in ADA bathroom multiple times
  • Closed 3 weeks – only brought over books from old building

Circulation went up at all libraries after renovations.  Bethleham saw their circ double and received additional funds from a local university.  North Pocono saw circ go up and an increase in new users.

Thank you to the presenters – I hope we can start renovations sooner rather than later!

Annual Reports

In Pennsylvania, if someone says “annual report” they mean the Public Library statistical report that we all have to complete in the spring.

Well, when I was a newbie director, the NEKLS grant application said I had to have an annual report (although I think I just realized that meant I had to complete the state statistical report).  Anyway, I went online and found this great 2-page report template for the Anytown Public Library from Iowa and used it in Tonganoxie way back in 2003.  I brought a sample of my favorite Tongie-era documents with me to Pennsylvania…so guess what our 2012 Annual Report for Huntingdon Valley looks like?  It was nice enough to impress my Board and the Statistical Story was approved by my statistics-teaching Saturday supervisor.  I hope Iowa still uses this with their libraries.  It’s a good exercise to condense a year’s worth of activity into a neat package for Superintendents and Commissioners and City Managers and such.

HVL Annual Report 2012


Is this thing on?

December 16 will be my 5 month anniversary at Huntingdon Valley.  I’m still getting acquainted with the community, my staff, the Board and the overall priorities of the library.  I’ve been asked to come up with a draft Strategic Plan, so here’s my SWOT..


  • Great Building with meeting space, two ISPs, new computers, a living room, beautiful grounds and modern shelving.  The carpet is in passible condition, as well.
  • Dedicated Board – full of smart and successful people who want what’s best for the Library.  They’re also willing to spend money.
  • Generous budget, that we have underspent for a few years in a row due to Director and staff turnover.  The State requires that we prove “local effort” at a level at or above the previous year.  Local effort isn’t determined by income, but by expenditures.  Hard to spend money when you’re without a Director every few months/years.


  • Customer Service.  It’s not up to my unreasonably high standards.  The Board wants “Hospitality industry” standards and so do I.  This will take time, training and a slow indoctrination process.  They will drink the kool-aid eventually.
  • Building Maintenance – we need paint, new tile flooring and a new circulation desk. The Circ Desk is key – the stand-up configuration and large span between the patron standing at the desk and the staff person sitting at their workstation does nothing to help with customer service.  People feel they’re bothering us when we have to get up and walk to the desk.
  • Inconsistent leadership and vision.  The library has been limping along, the staff trying their best to keep it going, without a plan, a vision, or useful mission.

Opportunities (external):

  • Community Hub.  Via the Chamber, outreach, meeting room usage, fundraising efforts and basic community involvement, I think we can make ourselves invaluable.  As one staffer said, we need to do something or we’ll be obsolete in 5 years.
  • Family Place.  Libraries have an opportunity to corner the market on early-literacy.  Story Time is just the beginning.
  • Lifelong Learning Center.  This community is all about programming and lectures and cultural dinners, so we’re working with the Friends to provide more.  This is one of those areas that suffered due to inconsistent leadership, I think.

Threats (external):

  • Obsolescence.  If tax payers and private funders don’t value the library or see what role we play as a community center, literacy/education support institution, or social equalizer…we’ll go the way of the Dodo.
  • Economy and Budget.  Aid from the Commonwealth continuously decreases and financial support from the Township is not guaranteed.  Private donations of both time and money are shrinking, as well.
  • Changing Demographics.  How do we attract and keep both young adult and adult users?  Small children and seniors are good, but not enough to sustain us.
  • Staffing.  We need more staff, more staff training, and clearer expectations to ensure we can actually achieve our new strategic goals.

For my own sanity rather than vanity, here’s a list of accomplishments.

  • Staff interviews.  These were useful and it’s time to start up with them again.
  • Social Media and PR.  We’ve resurrected the Facebook page, started a weekly eNewsletter and linked a WordPress blog created by the previous director to the Web site via RSS and call it the “news blog.”
  • Improved relations with the Friends.  I hope I have shown them I’m capable, reasonable, responsive and appreciative.  In turn, they’ve given us almost $30,000 in grants, when we normally get $17,000.
  • Collection Development.  We are now a team.  By putting our RA guru back into the role of ordering adult fiction, having our Circ Supervisor link the new fiction and taking on Non-fiction ordering and cataloging myself, I think we’ve done a good job of having what our patrons want in a fairly timely manner.
  • Supporting Youth Services.  Not only was the acting supervisor promoted, we hired her an assistant who is great.
  • New Technology and a MAC.  The Board let me buy 8 new computers and hire a MAC/Tech consultant to help with Polaris and our tech needs.  We also upgraded our Comcast bandwidth from 10 to 50 Mbps, so we have some uber-awesome wireless for patrons.

And my list of challenges:

  • Staffing.  Between major illnesses, surgeries, resignations and injuries…I haven’t had a full cadre of staff since I started.  We’ve made due and I’ve been up at the Circ Desk a lot, but we really, really need everyone hale, hearty, healthy and ready to work.  We’ll have several folks on light duty for a few more weeks, but hopefully they’ll be back to full speed by mid-January.  Luckily, I was able to hire a Substitute who saved our collective butts last week.  Oh, and I lost my Bookkeeper last week.
  • Overwhelming needs.  It’s been hard to prioritize and hard to accomplish much when I’m working the desk (except modeling customer service, getting to know patrons, learning our policies and becoming more familiar with the ILS).  Time management is tough, but I’m told by staff that even though I don’t feel it…I’m getting more done than some previous directors.
  • No NEKLS.  Seriously…Kansas Libraries are SO Lucky to have the regional system with consultants, architects on retainer, NEST, watch-parties, and standards.  I haven’t been shy about asking questions, but still…it’d be nice to have  Mickey or Laura to call on occasion (which I do).

Overall, I’m still glad to be a librarian, happy to be a Director again and just tell myself often…what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

A funny Tina Fey Quote found via  This Blog via Pinterest.