Friday, July 11, 2008

Ergonomics in Libraries

Judy Village, a certified ergonomist discussed designing library spaces and work processes to minimize musculoskeletal injuries. After explaining that an ergonomist is a certified profession in both Canada and the US who studies user needs, “translates” them into language and specifications that architects and building project planners can work with. She presented a lot of examples from circulation – reaching, bending, holding a book between the knees while making room on the shelf for it, etc., and some solutions and redesigns of both work and physical workstations and equipment. She talked about “fit” – making sure things fit people on the ends of the spectrum of reach, height, etc, not the average. One of her slides demonstrated how average-sized people are rare – of all men, about 25 % would be of average height (the middlemost chunk of bell curve), of those a percentage would have average arm length, of the ones with average height and arm length, only a subset would also have average leg length and so on. Another good point was to analyze the task/workstation/equipment for the parts that are essential to fit. She also talked briefly about wayfinding for patrons, observing what people do when confused (try airports and the like), and using standardized terms and color coding, with signs as a last resort.

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