The Library Building as Research Platform

Kristin Antelman
Associate Director for the Digital Library
North Carolina State University

Maurice York
Head of Information Technology
North Carolina State University

This briefing will introduce the technology vision behind the James B. Hunt Jr. Library, a new, 200,000 square foot building that opened in January 2013 at North Carolina State University. The Hunt Library was designed to meet the challenge of re-envisioning library spaces as a platform for research. The library’s goal is to engage researchers across disciplines by deploying broadly applicable technologies such as large-scale visualization, high resolution and 3D imagery, and interactive computing. These core technologies are expressed in physical spaces such as Immersion Theater, Game Lab, Media Production Studios, Teaching & Visualization Lab, and Creativity Studio. Through an inherent ability to reconfigure, re-purpose, and interchange components and infrastructure, the building’s technology itself is designed to be an object of research, a sandbox for emerging technologies and a showcase for cutting edge applications. New segments of the faculty are engaging in deeper ways than ever before, including the launch of several research projects based around Hunt.

Realizing the vision required converging physical and virtual spaces. Unlike library spaces that support undergraduate study, research-focused physical spaces require complementary virtual spaces. Thus, infrastructure is a core enabler. The building’s data center design, IP and AV fiber networks, HPC and high-performance storage (integrated with campus infrastructure), are all designed to support extensible use of spaces and to minimize operational staff support. As the most technologically advanced building on campus, Hunt has quickly become the test bed for new technologies on campus. As the physical infrastructure settles into operation, new service areas are emerging. A core service offering will be “project cloud” space, which will enable students and researchers to easily “check out” computing power and transfer large projects in and out of the library’s environment. Technology staff have been retrained and redeployed to support the new capabilities, and an academic technologist added to consult with researchers and match their needs with the building’s capabilities. Since all library services must be scalable, technology staff effort is focused on identifying good pilot projects that can serve as prototypes to be converted into templates for future projects.

Presentation Slides (PDF)

Last updated:  Wednesday, April 24th, 2013