citizenrod bad design library books spine title
citizenrod bad design library books spine title

Whether you have searched the library’s computer catalogue and identified the location of the book you are after, or if you are like me, and simply like to browse the aisles for whatever catches your eye, we all have one thing in common. We all do…

the library neck crunch.

If you are not sure what I mean, here is the above photo with an overlay demonstrating the angle library users need to perform to view the name of the books on the shelves.

citizenrod bad design library books ergonomic

In scientific terms this is called a “lateral bend”. Lateral bends are not a problem, physiologically, but as with all neck movements one should be careful not to over do them or to do them for too long. If you are a librarian, it is highly likely that this position is normal for you, and you probably have built up the neck muscles to perform it repeatedly. Or if you haven’t, perhaps now you know where that pain in the neck is coming from.

Most people are not librarians, and therefore have not built up these muscles. To compensate for the neck pain or discomfort, people will bend at the waist, knees, twist, hold on to a shelf, whatever it takes to reduce the discomfort that eventuates.

Regardless of whether you do or do not hurt yourself performing the action, this is still a problem. And more importantly, just because this is how books have been labelled and stored since the beginning of time, does not mean it should continue.

citizenrod bad design neck books ergonomic

The titles of the books are written at 90 degrees to our eyes, when our eyes are in a normal standing position.

We tilt our heads to try to reduce that angle (shown in pink).

Why are we trying to reduce that angle?

Because there is a gap here. Between the human physiology and the action the human is trying to perform. Here in lies the problem. Here in lies the bad design.

The fact that we are having to contort our body to complete an action, is a clear sign of bad design.

Who knew bad design could go unnoticed for 4000 years!!

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