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University Libraries

Libraries Listened to Furniture Feedback

By Maureen Schlangen

The first reaction from patrons to the reopening of Roesch Library’s bright, colorful, open first floor July 24 was, “Wow.”

For those who participated in activities to give input in the design and furnishing options, the second reaction was, “Wow — they listened.”

In August and September 2017 and August 2018, the local Steelcase dealer, Business Furniture, brought in an array of durable, functional and stylish furniture designs. During the Roeschella library event for new students and a 10-day event called a “furniture petting zoo” — the brainchild of associate professor and communications and marketing librarian Katy Kelly — students could rate the comfort and utility of each piece on display using a four-value Likert scale and offer free-form comments online or on sticky notes posted on a wall-size banner with a designated space for each model.

The feedback

Comments gathered during the testing phase revealed some trends in furniture preferences:

  • Armrests.
  • Electrical outlets.
  • Lots of table surfaces to move and work.

Dean Kathy Webb and construction manager Anna Hedley took all of these into consideration in the selection process. Results are below. Editor’s advice: Don’t try to understand the model names.

Lounge seating

The Brody modular workstation — a semi-enclosed upholstered pod with a footrest, a movable desktop, armrests and a high-intensity light — was the far and away favorite in the lounge seating category. Brodys were installed on the west end of the second floor in October 2018 and are occupied day and night (check out the photo in the gallery below).

“The Brody chair was phenomenal in comfort, especially when paired with the leg rest,” wrote one student. “I absolutely loved the Brody and could see myself using it daily.”

An upholstered mid-century modern chair called Bob, whose shape harkens to the space race, was close behind in the lounge category.

“I could live a very happy life in the Bob chair,” one student wrote. “I may never leave.” 

The Bob made its Roesch debut July 24 on the west end of the first floor along with cushioned footrests, complementary end tables and low modular armchairs by the model name Visalia.

Tables, chairs

Around the standard-height tables is the Cachet model, which swivels and features a washable fabric backrest, a cushioned seat and adjustable height (the photo in the gallery below shows a bare version). Around the electrical-supplied tall tables are the equally popular Shortcut, a bright, modern design with a durable plastic shell, armrests and a back cutout. 

The Buoy chair — a backless cylinder-shaped column with a rounded bottom, caught many samplers by surprise. “Seems like an insurance liability,” wrote one reviewer. The Buoy wobbles sort of like those Weeble toys from the 1970s, requiring users to engage their core muscles and legs to steady it. Apparently, the risk was not high enough to overcome its good marks; several are now in the Dialogue Zone, an innovative meeting space designed to facilitate civil, productive discourse on sensitive or challenging issues.

Along the west walls of the first and second floors, booths, cushioned benches, large and small tables, and cafe-style chairs provide spaces to match a wide range of solitary and interactive work styles.

Stop in and check things out

Contractors are still at work this week putting the finishing touches on the new spaces, but all services are up and running. Come on in!

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