In August I was asked, alongside several other Main Library Redevelopment Champions, to ‘test drive’ some proposed designs for new office furniture and to learn about how the furniture would function in the new working environment. As I made my way from Main Library up to Joule Library, I remembered feeling really awkward when I went to buy a new mattress and I found myself wondering: “Do I even know how to test furniture?”. The answer, I was relieved to find out, was yes.
The session took place in the Thesis Room where we were greeted by Mike Kelly (Library Space Project Manager), Adam Cooper (Library Communications Officer) and Jason Oak (Senior Interior Designer, Space Invaders). They briefly outlined that the purpose of the session was for the Design Team to get some initial feedback on the designs while giving staff members the opportunity to ask any questions that might arise in the process. The first items we were asked to review were office chairs. Jason explained that both chairs were designed to use the minimum materials necessary to reduce environmental impact while providing the option to make a range of adjustments to make sure the user could be as comfortable as possible when sitting. We were invited to sit in the available chairs and do what felt natural. We adjusted the seat height, back and arms until we were comfortable. We also tested out the wheels by moving from side to side and spinning in place (important for agile working!).
We then had a look at some of the other furniture and furnishings that were being considered. They included adjustable monitor mounts, partition screens for desks and document storage facilities, all of which we tested out as we moved around the room. Of particular interest to the Redevelopment Champions were the standing desks (adjustable to different heights) and the portable storage solutions. The latter were boxes for hot-desking (so called ‘HotBoxes’), and conversations among the group revealed a split between people who thought they’d be useful for storing pens, pencils and other stationery, and others who thought they’d be a better fit for storing wide files (the debate rages on…). We also looked inside proposed designs for staff lockers, and discussed important considerations like how many biscuits and tea bags could fit inside if there was already a HotBox there.
As the session finally drew to a close, Mike, Adam, and Jason tried to answer as many of our questions about the furniture as we could fit in. Though we’d bombarded them with questions throughout the session, part of our role as Redevelopment Champions is to assist the Design Team in anticipating the needs of the Library’s staff. In that sense, I think we accomplished our mission.
So, what happens next? Based on the feedback delivered from the first test session, Adam will be making the necessary arrangements so that other members of staff can visit the Thesis Room and test the proposed furniture themselves. Keep an eye out for more information over the coming weeks, and be ready to spin in place in the name of progress.
Haley Barnett, Research Services Librarian