ASSOCIATES (2008, July, v. 15, no. 1) -

Poor Design Equals Poor Health--
What has changed over the last two years?

Jim Jackson
University of Exeter

In November 2005 I asked readers of Associates to take part in a survey to find what they thought of the idea that poor design equals poor health. I am delighted to say that many people took the opportunity to express their views on their buildings design, functionality, and the approach taken by library management to a list of problems.

I regret to say that a large number of respondents said that they supported the idea about poor design and poor health.

I would like to update this information and see how things have changed.

Since that launch date, building design and management has become much more openly debated. The whole concept of a ‘library’ is now one which includes such titles as Information Centres, Library Resources Centres, and Resource Centres. In academic libraries the intense use of staff to issue and return books are being replaced by Self Issue machines and Self Return machines and the development of Information Desks. In some cases this has led to radical design changes within buildings and the use of new or reconditioned library furniture. Whether these changes have been for the better or not, it is probably too soon to know, but some of the original building design problems have perhaps been covered over by these design makeovers. Have these old problems started to reappear, or did they never go away, or perhaps some new problems have appeared which were unexpected by the design makeover teams?

In commercial companies the concept of worker health has become identified and a cause for action to be taken. The International Journal of Workplace Management volume 1 Issue 1 2008 has two articles on business’s investing in the health of its workers and of stress management for workers. ( Int. J. of Workplace Health Management volume 1 No 1 pages 65-71 and pages 50-64) While this might not directly apply to Library staff it does show a recognition of cause and effect and a problem solving solution.

I would be grateful if library front line staff would complete the survey below and let me know how you feel that things have improved, changed, or stayed the same. The results will be published in Associates later in the year. All entries will be treated as being confidential and no personal data will be kept or displayed.

Let me know what you think of your library - is it as grand as this or totally different? The "Main Reading Room"(MRR) of the Thomas Jefferson Bldg at the Library of Congress(LC.) completed a renovation in 1997, and transformed the MRR into a breathtakingly beautiful environment for scholars, researchers, visitors and staff to behold, study, and work.

The survey will run until September 30, 2008. Any comments can be sent directly to Jim Jackson at


User Information

E-mail address:
Type of Library *
Country *


Section 1- Issue Desk/Circulation Desk/Access Services Desk

Q1. Do you have to stretch across this area to collect books from patrons?
Yes   No  

Q2. If YES, does this cause you any muscle ache or pain?
Yes   No  

Q3. Can you please describe the location of any muscle aches or pain? (e.g., shoulder, back wrist, etc.)

Q4. Do you use a hand held bar code scanner?
Hand held   Fixed position  

Q5. Does using the bar code scanner cause you any ( RSI ) repetitive strain problems?
Yes   No  

Q6. If YES how do you cope with these problems? Do you use painkiller medication,
topically applied gel, exercise, or wear a splint? Please comment:

Q7. If NO have you taken any preventative measures to avoid these problems?

Q8. Does your Library have any Health and Safety measures in place to deal with problems
that might arise from repetitive use of equipment. Such as training in manual handing or height adjustable chairs, etc.?

Yes   No  

Q9. If YES please give examples.

Q10. If NO have you taken any preventative measures to avoid these problems?

Your comments may possibly affect the design of the next generation of Library in your area.

Section 2- Work Environment

Q11. Have there been any improvements to your buildings environment over the last 2 years?
If YES please comment:

Q12. Have any design changes lead to new problems such as increased air pollution inside the building?
If YES please comment:

Q13. Have new work patterns lead to increased stress levels for staff?

Q14. If YES are there any methods for dealing with it?

Q15. Do you work in a air conditioned building?
Yes   No  

Q16. Are there any reported problems with the air-conditioned building where you work?
Yes   No   Don't Know  

Q17. If YES please describe:

Q18. Has your building ever been classed as having 'Sick Building Syndrome'?
Yes   No   Don't Know  

Q19. If YES what action if any, was taken to correct this problem?

Q20. Some eye conditions are made worse by dry air in air conditioned areas,
such as public buildings and shopping malls, e.g. contact lens problems. Does this happen in your building?

Yes   No   Don't Know  

Q21. If YES what action, if any has been taken to improve the air quality?

Q22. The intensity of lighting can affect both library staff and patrons;
they are often referred to as Lux levels. Are there any regular measurements taken of lighting levels?

Yes   No   Don't Know  

Q23. If YES how often are measurements taken and what happens to the results?

Q24. Is smoking allowed in any part of your building?
Yes   No  

Q25. If YES is this restricted to certain areas?
Yes   No  

Q26. If YES, please describe the restricted areas:

Q27. Please add any additional comments:

Survey designed by Albert Morita/UCR