Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Library Furniture Standards

Since I was thinking about space standards for carrels, I remembered my joy and surprise to find that there are separate standards for library furniture. ALA's Library Technical Report, vol. 31, no. 2, March/April, 1995 features library chairs. The report explains a test method and reports on 30 chairs, which report is pretty well out of date now. But know that there are separate, and much more rigorous standards and tests than the office furniture tests that many manufacturers cling to. Very important, because furniture that seems fine in an office environment or home, will not stand up in library use.

In Chair Wars, 5 AALL Spectrum 31-32 (April, 2001), I told the adventures I went through with public use chairs at my then-new library. What I discovered, after much calling around, is that one of the biggest stress points for chairs is a lateral scoot. Our armless, wooden chair legs were splitting vertically. I had imagined people leaning the chair back and then letting it bang to the floor while they sat. But Carl Eckelman, who wrote the Library Technology Report above for the ALA, explained that it was much more likely that the chairs broke when a person sat down, and then scooted the chair sideways, to center it, while sitting in the chair.

Arms gave a good deal more strength to the chairs, and so we weren't seeing armed chairs break, just ones with no arms. Our architects had decided on handsome wood chairs, but the university skimped a bit on cost and got them without stretchers. These are the bars that stretch between chair legs. It turns out they are pretty important little additions. The stretchers strengthen the chair legs against the stresses of these little sitting scoots. We finally had to retrofit the armless chairs with stretchers, as well as adding good glides to reduce the friction of scoots in any direction. Since then, our chair mortality rate has been much lower, thank heavens! Don't let them skimp on stretchers!

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