Questions about computer furniture arise periodically. Nearly a quarter of our inquiries this past month dealt with the accommodation of PCs and terminals in a library or office environment. The emphasis was on accommodating equipment used by staff. While patrons generally appear to be satisfied with PCs or terminals installed in regular carrels or on walk up catalog consultation tables, staff complain when PCs or terminals are placed on regular office desks. The complaints are understandable because most conventional office furniture is too high for comfortable, keyboarding and too low for comfortable viewing up to eight hours a day. What is needed is adjustability.
Specialized computer furniture has three main areas of adjustment: the chair, the keyboard, and the monitor. Chairs designed for computer use should be easily adjustable for height and tilt for the seat back and bottom, and for recline tension, as well. Staff who haven't adjusted a chair in years of typewriter use will regularly adjust chairs once they start using PCs or terminals. Ideally, it also should be possible to adjust the height of the keyboard, but that can be very costly. For this, the most practical solution is a pull-out shelf below the regular work surface. Finally, it must be possible to adjust the screen for both height and distance from the operator. We have found that the most effective device for accomplishing this is a platform mounted on a swivel arm clamped to the desk which holds the monitor.
If space permits, staff should have U-shaped workstations. That permits a staff member to stay seated and swivel the chair around in one direction to reach the keyboard, and the other direction to reach a spacious work surface for the use of books and papers.
A good posture swivel chair costs from $175 to $350; a U-shaped workstation from $600 to $1,000; and a monitor arm from $40 to $150.
An ad hoc committee organized at the Library of Congress is looking into the need for ergonomic guidelines for workstations used in library technical services departments. NISO Z39 also has some interest in this subject.