Thursday, April 26, 2007

University Libraries’ Personnel Find Dual Monitor Workstations Boost Productivity

Several employees at the Ball State University Libraries have been using a second 17” flat-screen monitor at their workstations. Early and continuing reports are that these dual monitors result in higher productivity, reduced eye strain, and enhanced multi-tasking opportunities for improved work flow.

The first area to test dual screens was Interlibrary Loan Services. They are now also being used in six additional areas, including Archives and Special Collections, Authority Control/Bibliographic Control, Dean’s Office, Library Information Technology Services, Metadata and Digital Initiatives, and the University Copyright Center. In addition, the public workstations in Geospatial Resources and Map Collections feature dual monitors for use on its public workstations.

Karin Kwiatkowski, Interlibrary Loan Lending Coordinator, reports that the dual monitors on her desk are great because she can quickly find the data that she needs without toggling between and among different windows. “We used to have physical paper and one screen. With two screens, it is more efficient and there is no eye strain,” she says. “In my work, I would have four windows open at any given time. Now one monitor can stay open for ILLiad, which is our primary software, and the other monitor can be used for searching catalogs, the Internet, or workflows.”

Kathy S. Reed, Bibliographic Control Supervisor, agrees that having two monitors at her workstation has increased her productivity by 15% to 20% depending on the task. She searches often in OCLC Connexion, an international database, to match existing Unicorn Workflows records as warranted. She finds that when she needs to use three applications simultaneously, she can move between screens with ease, and it takes a lot less time.

“I constantly make use of the second monitor,” adds Jonathan M. Brinley, Metadata and Digital Initiatives Developer. “When I’m coding, the two screens let me have a command prompt on one screen and an editor in the other, making it easier to test and debug the code. When I’m cataloging a digital image, the second monitor allows me to see the image while I catalog it. When working in a spreadsheet or database, sometimes 1280 pixels isn’t enough to see what you need to see. The second monitor lets me expand the window to save a lot of scrolling back and forth.”

Robert L. Seaton, Web Developer in the University Libraries, uses dual monitors to increase his throughput. “With two monitors, I can have Photoshop open full screen on one and a Web browser editing program and an Explorer window positioned in the other, all viewable at the same time,” Robert said.

The only cost involved with adding a second monitor is the cost of the monitor itself. This is because Windows XP automatically recognizes the second monitor and provides a few basic configuration options. The first is to duplicate the image of the first monitor on the second, a configuration often used during presentations with a laptop and overhead data projector. The second configuration uses a second monitor to double the amount of Windows workspace available.

For more information, contact Bradley D. Faust, Ball State University Libraries’ Assistant Dean for Library Information Technology Services,, (765) 285-8032.

This newsletter article first appeared in The Library Insider 5(4): 3; April 2007.

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