Sunday, 2 August 2015

Why can't a library ...

Be more like a store (with apologies to Frederick Loewe & Alan Jay Lerner)? And if it were a store, what kind of store would it be? Please don't say bookstore, because even though we apparently love them, they're dying and going out of business. Except for those that evolve beyond books, earn the respect of customers, get into their communities, incorporate new ideas such as subscription services, “reading spas”, bibliotherapy, cafes, events and festivals with authors and celebrities (Butler, 2014).

The bookstore

Yet many libraries are adopting the bookstore model, by genre-fying their collection, ensuring that titles are front facing, having multiple copies of popular books (Day, 2013; Kindschy, 2015). Even as many libraries have a huge online presence which they work hard at making visible to their clients through a wide variety of means including signage, display, print-outs, screens, bookmarks, social media etc. people like David Weinberger, are still implying that libraries are missing a trick while Gopnik laments “By atomizing our experience to the point of alienation—or, at best, by creating substitutes for common experience (“you might also like…” lists, Twitter exchanges instead of face-to-face conversations)—we lose the common thread of civil life” (Gopnik, 2015).

The fashion store

A few months ago, I had the most horrendous shopping experience - my son insisted that I accompanied him to an A&F store. Only after reading this article do I "get" why it was so awful.  The whole point of the loud music and low lights is to keep the wrinkly parentals OUT of the store, not to entice them in. There are those who lament that as libraries become more inclusive, more multifunctional hybrid spaces they are going the same way – keeping out the very people who have the need for scholarly quiet space (Miller, 2013; West, 2013).   On the other end of the spectrum, one has the Burberry model (Bath, 2014; Davis, 2014; Williams, 2014). Where there is seamless integration between the online and offline experience, which may go some of the way in addressing Weinberger’s concerns. What we are looking for is the omnichannel “an experience that takes consumers from their current channel of choice and seamlessly chaperones them within an uninterrupted brand experience through digital and physical worlds without the customer being consciously aware or concerned about where one channel started and the other finished” (Bath, 2014, para. 8).

The Grocery Store / kitchen

Joyce Valenza also uses a store metaphor “We need to stop thinking of the library as a grocery store a place to get stuff and start thinking of it as a kitchen a place to make stuff” (cited in Johnson, 2013). Further in the same article, referring to the mission of libraries, Johnson states “The library's resources have changed, but not its mission: teaching people to effectively access information to meet their needs. The emphasis has shifted from teaching learners how to find and organize information to teaching them how to evaluate and use information” (2013, p. 85) Strolling through Ikea yesterday on a mission to have a look at the design elements for a different assignment, I suddenly realised it had many elements and features that could be incorporated into a library.


A couple of things work in the Ikea model:
  • It’s practically impossible to leave without buying something
  • Your route is determined by the store layout
  • Clear signage and explanations
  • The incorporation of demo-rooms and demo-apartments shows you how you can use what the store can offer – visualizing and envisaging
  • A price point where decision making is easy (Carlyle, 2015)
  • Few of the products are “ready to use” without customer engagement (assembly)
  • Trends of users and society are researched and analyzed (IKEA, 2012)
  • Extreme users can hack the basics and go beyond to create to meet their own needs – and share their experience / learning with others (, 2014; Mars, 2014; McGauley, 2015).

One of the things that struck me yesterday was that in addition to the traditional layout idea of “bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom” the signage in the demo-apartments referred to “solutions” as in “kitchen solutions, media solutions and sleeping solutions”, which is somewhat contradictory to the trends identified in the report by IKEA, that indicated a move towards hybrid functional spaces defined more by whether people wanted solitude or company than by their traditional function (IKEA, 2012).  


Full demo-apartment

Floor plan

Solution spaces configuration 1

Solution spaces configuration 2

Clear signage and explanations

Instructions for self-packaging

But I like the idea of “solution” spaces. Especially for a library. It fits in a bit with the “campfire / watering hole / cave” ideas of Thornburg (2007) but I don’t think that goes far enough in providing users solutions for their learning needs. Yes it does allow for a variation in pace and intensity and communal versus individual effort, and facilitates knowledge gathering through listening, collaboration or research but are these solution spaces? I’d argue they aren’t. That’s not to say we haven’t by accident or design created solution spaces in the library. Thinking to the user needs in the secondary library where I worked:

  • Finding books to read for pleasure at the right interest / ability level
  • Hanging out with friends in an air-conditioned space (we live in the tropics!)
  • Having a "third space" that wasn't home or classroom
  • Playing games (on-line and physical)
  • Lounging around reading dip-in dip-out books such as comics, graphic novels and poetry
  • Mother tongue resources
  • Resources – physical and online for school units or assignments
  • Resources – physical and online for personal questions or interests
  • Information literacy / literacy assistance for completing assignments to a high standard including academic honesty and scholarly value added.
  • ? more that I’ve not thought of at the moment.

With respect to the library space, I think we met most of the needs in a satisficing way given the constraints of space, resources and person-power. But I’d argue that if we were to combine the concepts of the omnichannel with solution spaces after careful observation and involvement of our users we could go so much further. Perhaps our library guides should have “hacking your grade 7 middle ages assignment” or “hacking citations”? Perhaps we should have a research zone where online and offline is seamlessly integrated with signage and demo-products?  

These thoughts are in their infancy for me, somewhat half-formed and not "quite there" and I’d appreciate further comments and ideas and examples of where you’ve done this.


Bath, O. (2014, May 16). The Burberry model: why blending online and offline boosts success [Web Log]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from

Butler, S. (2014, February 21). Independent bookshops in decline as buying habits change [Newspaper]. Retrieved July 26, 2015, from

Carlyle, R. (2015, May 1). The secret of Ikea’s success [Newspaper]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from

Davis, S. (2014, March 27). Burberry’s Blurred Lines: The Integrated Customer Experience [Newspaper]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from

Day, K. (2013, November). Liberate your book cupboards and create a more true “bookstore” model in your school library? [Web Log]. Retrieved July 26, 2015, from

Gopnik, A. (2015, June 12). When a Bookstore Closes, an Argument Ends - The New Yorker [Newspaper]. Retrieved July 26, 2015, from

IKEA. (2012). What goes on behind closed doors - Life at home in the UK (p. 23). United Kingdom. Retrieved from (2014).

IKEA Hackers - Clever ideas and hacks for your IKEA. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from Johnson, D. (2013). Power Up! The New School Library. Educational Leadership, 71(2), 84–85. Retrieved from

Kindschy, H. E. (2015, January 13). Time to Ditch Dewey? Shelving Systems that Make Sense to Students (Learning Commons Model, Part 4) [Web Log]. Retrieved July 26, 2015, from

Mars, R. (2014, August 19). Hacking IKEA [Podcast]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from

McGauley, J. (2015, February 19). Easy IKEA Hacks For Your Apartment - Best DIY Projects [Web Log]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from

Miller, L. (2013, January 31). Bring back shushing librarians [Newspaper]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from

Thornburg, D. (2007, October). Campfires in cyberspace: Primordial metaphors for learning in the 21st Century. TCPD. Retrieved from

West, P. (2013, November 20). Libraries: a plea from a silence seeker [Newspaper]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from

Williams, G. (2014, March 19). Why the online/offline split no longer matters [Newspaper]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Designed for a purpose

On one day this week, spend 30 minutes on your way to work, at the gym or in a restaurant, taking care to observe, and note in a sketchpad, everything that you think has been designed for a purpose, without which the journey, gym or restaurant experience would be more difficult, or less pleasant. Has anything been designed for one purpose but harnessed for another?

Since I'm still on holiday, I considered the area I'm in at the moment. Vevey is located on Lac Leman in the southern part of Switzerland. It is home to Nestlé, where about 6,000 of its employees work in a beautiful building on the lake.
When we're here in the summer we often come down to the lake to picnic in the park and s to take out the paddle boats or swim in the lake, and in the evenings I notice the employees coming out of the office and decided to document the 'design' experience of their commute home or to have fun next to the lake after work.

Commuting options:

Straight outside the office complex their is a funicular which takes one up the hill into the Lavaux where one can hike or walk or bike for hours.  There is also a "freecycle" stand with bicycles that can be taken and used and returned at another spot. The trolley bus line passes by which links to the train station with 2 trains per hour with a commute of 1 hour to Geneva (the closest big airport), or 30 minutes to Lausanne.

A lovely pedestrian promenade along the lake which is extremely well maintained with lovely flowers.

A great design "nudge" was the display in the bus which said (translated from French) "90% of your fellow passengers have paid their fare".   In addition, during the Montreux Jazz festival (which has just finished), the bus has extended hours and provides free trips to Montreux to prevent the use of passenger cars with the resulting congestion and parking problems.

Vevey promenade Images: Nadine Bailey, Map - Vevey Tourist office

Recreation options:

It seems like many people leave work on time (around 5pm) and since it's still light until about 9.30pm they'll stop by the park and bathing areas and meet their partners and children there and have a picnic dinner or BBQ on small portable stands. The whole area transforms into a space of families after 5pm.  The best form of design "repurposing" are the fountains.  Unlike in most parts of the world where putting body parts into the decorative fountains is strictly prohibited, here it seems to be encouraged, and all 3 of the fountains are repurposed as bathing areas for the little ones for whom the lake would be too cold or too deep (see images 1-3 above).

When I walked past on Tuesday, the local library had brought along their van with a pop-up library with books for kids in a cute little trolley and chairs to curl up into - and of course a friendly librarian to help with your choice.

IMG_0623 IMG_0624
IMG_0626 IMG_0625
Images: Nadine Bailey

The community also provides free wifi - albeit at not a very fast bandwidth.  


 The whole area is surrounded by beauty both in nature, but also in the man-made and maintained flowerbeds and the placement of sculpture - including the wonderful kinetic sculptures of Charles Morgan, who is a local inhabitant. In conclusion, this environment definitely reflects the words of Tim Brown in his TED talk in that it makes life easier, more enjoyable with an understanding of culture and context and where a focus on the systems (such as public transport) have a bigger impact on the society as a whole.

Mobile library on the shore

Our local library in Vevey has decided to do a pop-up library on the shores of lake Geneva!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

On the box, off the box

With respect to physical space, I have to think about the orchestra my son was playing in. They had a very very small podium to rehearse on - about 8mx4m and about 35-40 students including 1st, 2nd & 3rd violins, cellos, violas and 2 double basses. The podium had an upright piano - which isn't being used but can be moved but not off the podium.  Excepting the 3 celli, they are all standing for a 2 hour rehearsal except a 15 minute break and they're pretty squashed at that.
That got me interested in what the "norm" would be for orchestras. When I looked it up, 1.7-2m2 per person was recommended (this particularly has to do with health and safety guidelines - for noise / sound exposure - the whole article was quite an eye-opener for me).
The impact the limited space has includes the fact that it is very difficult for the conductor and the teachers aiding the orchestra to move between the ranks, and individual players - this is normal behaviour in amateur and student orchestras since the players are often too young to just take the instructions and write them in the music unaided, or even sometimes to understand exactly what is meant or asked for. This is even more the case in a situation like this where the musicians only come together for four days of rehearsals with the final concert on the fifth day. The students have limited freedom of movement which leads to more cramped posture which impacts the sound, and they're very close which can lead to a claustrophobic feeling in some.

Day 1 - squeezing 38 players on a podium
Viola players off the edge at the back
First Violins nearly on the edge
A lot of space and few observers
Day 2, piano moved not much improvement

The interesting part of the equation, is although the podium is small, the rehearsal space is very big, and there are relatively few observers.  I did make the suggestion to the conductor that there was no particular need for the rehearsals to take place on the podium, and we as observers would be happy to sit in one part of the room while they took over the rest - but he didn't seem open to the idea.  I guess it's that thing of not being able to think outside of the "box" or the functionality of the podium, which in this case is not very functional! Then on the third day I went to look at the rehearsal of another orchestra (there were three orchestras in total depending on ability). Voila! This conductor obviously was not constrained by the box! The first violins, cellos and double basses sprawled over the front edge, as did the conductor and the spectators were pushed back.  Why?  I can only imagine that with 6 cello players needing chairs they just HAD to move down, it was no longer an option to stay "in the box"

Conductor off the box!
Violins have plenty of space
Cellos spread out. Violas on the podium
no-one falling off the edge!

Funnily enough I did ask my son and the other viola players how they felt. They were a lot less indignant than the parents of the players. Is it because they are much younger and have less insight? Or is it because they are more happy to accept what someone in authority decides? Or do they get less upset and excited generally about this type of thing?  Anyone have suggestions? Do we care too much?

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Don't break my heart

I've just spent 5 days at the Suzuki European Convention, accompanying my cello playing daughter and viola playing son, which was a brilliant opportunity to observe some very hardworking and talented students and teachers in action. There are group classes, orchestra classes, concerts and a lot of playing and learning for the students, the teachers who are not teaching the class but observing classes and of course the parents.

Since my current course is INF536 "Designing spaces for learning" I was particularly interested in seeing how thinking about space and learning was incorporated into the lessons.  The idea of space is an interesting one. I do not have any power over changing a learning environment, since I am an observer and living in a hotel, however I can make some comments on what I have seen around me.

The first thing I have noticed is that we should not limit our considerations about space to physical space.  One of the interesting things is how the temporal space of timetabling is used.  Each group starts the morning with a "play in" - with all children at all levels attending. Then there are group classes depending on levels interspaced with orchestra (for the higher levels) and free time, during which students are free to wander into other orchestra rehearsals or to observe classes of their own or other instruments.  Building "space" into "time" can also have an impact on learning.

Within the structure of the class the teachers (who are all very skilled "master" teachers) build in playing and learning and working (Kuratko, Goldsby, & Hornsby, 2012) through alternating fun activities with advice on technique, dynamics and other musical issues, as well as the hard work of repetition until the desired effect is achieved.

One lesson that stood out was an advanced class that was working on the Haydn Cello concerto with Takao Mizushima.  First the class all played a section together. Then each student had to play it separately while he made comments and suggestions for improvement. All students play to a very high standard, but over the years various habits and issues with posture can creep in which may be expeditious in the beginning, but over time will compromise the quality of sound.  In this instance the learning space is the cello and the bow and in fact limited to a very small section of the cello, namely the area from where the finger board ends to the bridge as well as the C Bouts (see below).
The area of learning indicated by the red circle

An important aspect of sound relates to bowing. Ideally the bow should be at right angles to the string and should remain at right angles even as the cellist moves from string to string - which requires adjustment of the whole arm.  The video below explains this - in a rather boring fashion. (Note there are exceptions to this "rule" such as in baroque playing or when a specific sound needs to be created).


As the boy finishes playing, the teacher praises him for his interpretation and then says, "please don't break my heart" - he moves to his bag and gets a roll of sticky tape and fashions a heart out of the tape. He then places the tape on the tip of the C Bout (as illustrated in 3 below) and instructs the student to play the passage again.  At no point does he tell the student he's bowing incorrectly (as illustrated in 2 below) but the student in question and all the students around him immediately get the point of what was wrong.  He plays again, to animated "acting" by the teacher about his heart not being broken and the bowing is better.  The 'goal post' is then shifted (as illustrated in 4) and the bowing is even better.
An illustration of the lesson components
Enjoy the video - the quality is not very good as individuals are not focused on to protect their privacy.

Don't break my heart from Nadine Bailey on Vimeo.

The lessons I drew from this were the making of a design change - in this case introducing a constraint, display (playing with the constraint) and replay (moving the constraint) with the feedback to both the participant in question and all the learners around, as well as to the audience of a teaching "trick" that is effective.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Forced constraints

The third interesting observation was during a cello class today.  The teacher was trying to get the students to reign in their youthful exhuberance during a piece, and she deliberately introduced a constraint in order to get them to "feel" what she was trying to teach.  She got them all to turn the bow around so they were playing it the wrong way around and then to put their grip really close to the end and only play on that part.  They were then allowed a little more space and then to play normally again - mission accomplished.