Monday, October 06, 2008

Computer desk redesign for the National Library of Australia

Sitting in the reading room of the National Library of Australia, I was using one of the computer workstations to research the design of desks for learning commons. It occurred to me that I was sitting at such a desk, so I looked around to see how it was done and what could be improved.

The NLA appears to use a standard desk for visitors in an attractive dark honey timber. These are about 1800 x 750 mm, providing two 900 x 750 mm workstation spaces. There is a surround about 100 mm high at the sides and back of the desks, which is useful for defining the user's space (the library can get busy and there can be competition for space). The same desk design is used for computer workstations, microfilm readers and for paper based work. There are also taller desks to the same design for computer workstations with high chairs.

The desks have a cable hole in the surface to the left at the back of the work surface. This leads into a cavity about 100 mm deep under the desk formed by two large locked doors. This arrangement keeps the cables out of sight and away from interference. Unfortunately the aesthetics of the desks are compromised by an excess of cables behind the Dell computers, along with a magnetic card reader and a security cable. It is not clear why all this excess cable is bundled up on the desks instead of under the desks in the space designed for it.

About on third of the desktop is taken up by the PC boxes. The fans for these computers are directly in front of the user and so in the quite library environment, the fan sound it very obvious.

The library might consider relocating most of the cable in the cabinet under the desk. A second hole could be drilled on the right, to allow the mouse and card reader cables to be shortened. The magnetic card reader could be fixed to the desk at the hole (the card reader is rarely needed and does not have to be so prominent).

Consideration might be given top placing the PC boxes under the desk, but it may be better to wait until they are due form replacement and use disk less, fan less smaller units. In the interim the NLA might want to schedule cleaning of the dust from the fan filters.

Any new desks could be equipped with a 150 mm curve cut into the front to create more space. The cable hole could be relocated to the center of the back of the desk. The desks could be simplified by replacing the full height cabinet at the back with a smaller shelf.

Some 450 mm cabinets for holding printers and ancillary equipment might be made and placed at either end of a row of two desks, allowing the seating to be alternating on each side of the desk.

The NLA might want to adopt the practice of many libraries in having no high chairs for casual use terminals. Having to stand encourages the users to let someone else have a turn.

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Blogger Tom Worthington said...

One desk from the National Library of Australia was auctioned for $6000. This was commissioned from well known furniture Fred Ward in the designer the in 1970s in mountain ash and leather. The computer desks in the reading room may not be quite to this standard, but NLA may still be reluctant to cut them up.

October 07, 2008 11:08 AM  

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