NCSU Libraries Facilities & Technologies Overview
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Library facilities at NC State University include two main libraries—the D. H. Hill Library and the James B. Hunt Jr. Library—as well as the Harrye B. Lyons Design Library, the Natural Resources Library, and the William Rand Kenan Jr. Library of Veterinary Medicine.
Key spaces include:
- Visualization spaces for large-scale display, audiovisual simulations, or immersion in virtual environments
- Incubator spaces for exploring new technologies
- Makerspaces, with 3D printers and scanners, a laser cutter, electronics, and wearables
- Gaming spaces, including a Game Lab for the scholarly study of games
- Digital media editing and production facilities, including green screens and sound effects
- An immersion theater and several large video walls for panoramic display of faculty and student work
- Telepresence facilities for videoconferencing
- Learning and research commons, top destinations for study and collaboration
High-technology research and learning spaces: The NCSU Libraries provides spaces for high-definition visualization, simulations, ideation, and innovation. These spaces accommodate various projection and display configurations; real-time video capture, broadcast, and collaboration; and flexible furnishings to support a wide range of scholarly activities. Dedicated videoconferencing spaces are available at the Hunt and Veterinary Medicine Libraries, and web-based videoconferencing is available in all NCSU Libraries.
Faculty research and collaboration: Faculty Research Commons are available at both the Hill and Hunt libraries. They each offer reservable workrooms, focus rooms, various open seating configurations, and a technology-equipped conference room. At the D. H. Hill Library, faculty members can also be assigned the use of a private research study room for a semester. Technology lending: The library lends electronic devices, including laptops and tablets, digital cameras and camcorders, digital voice recorders and audio production equipment, projectors, graphing calculators, and a variety of maker kits and components.
Description of Spaces, Technologies, Collaboration, and Support
The NCSU Libraries’ two main libraries feature an unparalleled array of spaces, technologies, and services supported by highly skilled librarians.
The James B. Hunt Jr. Library, which opened in January 2013, is among the most technologically sophisticated libraries in North America. As a building, an integrated technology environment, and a suite of services, the Hunt Library is an innovative model for the research library as a high-technology research platform, an essential enabler of faculty and student success, and a competitive advantage for the 21st-century university. Among the Hunt Library’s numerous awards is the prestigious 2014 Stanford Prize for Innovation in Research Libraries (SPIRL). Focused on the core technologies of visualization, presentation, and interactive computing, this building is designed as a laboratory for supporting faculty research with cutting-edge technologies.
A team of disciplinary librarians, technicians, programmers, systems engineers, and project managers supports research activities in unique environments at the Hunt Library, such as:
- Teaching and Visualization Lab
- 3D high-definition visualization and simulation
- Seamless 270-degree immersive projection with 80 feet of display surface
- Creativity Studio
- Reconfigurable teaching, learning, and collaboration space
- Moveable, high-definition projectors and displays
- Real-time capture and broadcast
- Game Lab
- State-of-the-art research space for study of digital games
- 20 x 5-ft. Christie® MicroTiles® video display wall with full-screen touch capability
- Video Seminar Room
- Videoconferencing for 8-12 people with a Cisco TelePresence TX9000 Series system
- 3D printing service for students, faculty, and staff
- Technology Lending Service
The D. H. Hill Library houses the majority of the NCSU Libraries' collection of over 4.5 million items and offers additional high-technology and collaboration spaces that complement those available in the Hunt Library.
- The Learning Commons is one of the top student destinations on campus for collaboration, study, and access to technology.
- The Makerspace at Hill gives hands-on access to the emerging technologies of making, enabling students and faculty to work with 3D printing, 3D scanning, electronics prototyping, and other Maker tools, and holds frequent Maker workshops.
- The Visualization Studio offers 360-degree projection across four walls to support interaction with visual information and collaboration.
- The Special Collections Research Center provides access to unique collections that document historical and contemporary aspects of fields of study that are strengths for the University.
- The Digital Media Lab contains audio production and video editing workstations, a green screen wall for filming special effects, and a softbox lighting kit.
Collaborative Research and Visualization Spaces
The Hunt Library’s Teaching and Visualization Lab and Creativity Studio can be rapidly reconfigured to adapt to virtually any use case, experiment, or research question. Much like a stage set, the open floor design, exposed infrastructure, movable furniture, and adaptable lighting, sound, and display components dynamically support different sets of requirements for diverse events. The modular design of these rooms allows them to be leveraged for any phase of a project’s lifecycle, including brainstorming and ideation, early experimentation, collaborative engagement, and public presentations and events. The spaces’ centralized computing power allows every project its own discrete server space, enabling easy changeover between users. Intuitive automation and touch controls provide self-service support for over a dozen combinations of furniture and technology setups that meet most standard uses of the rooms. A team of technical and disciplinary specialists provides event and technical consulting as well as custom support for more intensive special projects and research.
The Hunt Library’s Game Lab is built around a massive 20x5-ft. display that can be used as a single ultra-high resolution digital canvas running at eight times the resolution of HD or can serve as a multi-screen space to display the several console gaming platforms and computer sources housed in the room. Three sides of the room are snap glass, or smart glass, which can be turned from transparent to opaque with a single touch on the room’s control panel, enabling total privacy for teaching, research, or development needs.
At the D. H. Hill Library, the Visualization Studio is a collaborative environment for researchers, students, and faculty that provides an ideal physical space for interacting with visual information. The room contains 12 projectors that display the contents of a single computer screen across four walls in a 360-degree projection environment. The studio also provides the infrastructure to tie in personal laptops, allowing up to four different users to project simultaneously. Because the studio runs on a standard desktop, it can support a wide range of applications and users from a variety of disciplines with varying levels of computer skills. Custom display software is also available, and the room enables video conferencing and two-way collaboration among remote sites as well.
Large-Scale Interactive Display Spaces
The massive display walls throughout the Hunt Library are composed of hundreds of individual Christie® MicroTiles® that stack together to form a variety of unique, ultra-high resolution display surfaces for game research, simulation, interactive visualization, presentation, modeling, animation, and media display. The LED light source in every tile has a seven-year half-life and can display a range of colors not seen in any other display manufactured today. Each MicroTiles® wall in the library can display images and video over four times the resolution of standard HDTV--some as high as eight times--creating an ideal digital canvas for research and teaching
The iPearl Immersion Theater, located just inside the library entrance, features a curved 7x16-ft. video display wall, creating an immersive visual experience in an open-air theater immediately off the high-traffic main entrance path. The theater acts as a gallery and show space, offering a visitor to the library an immediate experience of the character of the building and what happens in it, from rich content to interactive applications, seminars, and workshops to research events and demonstration projects. The theater is also a presentation space in which faculty can showcase their research, students can demonstrate their projects, and anyone who has an idea they would like to share can spin up an ad hoc workshop or presentation.
Videoconferencing and Event Capture
At the Hunt Library, the Video Seminar Room uses Cisco TelePresence to provide formal, high-resolution videoconferencing that recreates a traditional sit-down meeting at a conference table. Dynamic conferencing is provided in both the Teaching and Visualization Lab and the Creativity Studio through controllable, point-tilt-zoom cameras placed in each corner of the room. The Visualization Studio at D. H. Hill enables videoconferencing as well.
True to the adaptable spirit of all of these rooms, the conferencing capabilities are designed to engage remote guests in collaborative sessions, allowing them to experience unique research installations that take advantage of the rooms or participate as an invited expert in a seminar. Informal conferencing accommodates the wide variety of web-based chat software used on a daily basis by many students and faculty, including Skype and Google Hangout. This level of conferencing support places webcams in every room and supports seamless integration of user-owned devices such as laptops, tablets, and phones with technologies in the building.
Makerspaces in the NCSU Libraries
Both main libraries at NC State feature makerspaces. The Makerspace at D. H. Hill offers students and faculty hands-on access to the emerging technologies of making, such as 3D printing, 3D scanning, laser cutting, electronics prototyping, wearables, and other Maker tools. The Hill Makerspace hosts a robust program of making workshops and training sessions, and its staff collaborates with faculty to design projects and experiences that support curriculum and pedagogy. The Hunt Library Makerspace offers a 3D printing service to all students and faculty, and provides a full suite of electronics prototyping tools through its Technology Lending Service.
Display Walls and Audiovisual Infrastructure
Display is the cornerstone of the Hunt Library technology program. The building features over 100 million pixels of research-class display space, distributed across four large-scale public display walls, a Game Lab, the Teaching and Visualization Lab with 270-degree immersive and 3D display, and a Creativity Studio with two wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling projection walls. The Game Lab and display walls are Christie® MicroTiles® and run anywhere from four to eight times the resolution of full HD displays. The Visualization Lab alone boasts some 80 linear feet of projection space and over 22 million pixels of resolution.
The Hunt Library is designed to be an integrated visual environment, with an extensive variety of high-resolution display walls and immersive projection spaces that support a robust program of visualization, presentation, and large-scale display. The integrated design means that each of the seven major display spaces acts as a node along a common backbone and shares centralized high-performance computing, routing, and switching. Each of the major screens can display up to 16 sources simultaneously, making them rich digital canvases for research, collaboration, and teaching. The infrastructure design allows a true any-source-to-any-display architecture to achieve optimal flexibility in the use of the entire building as a research hub. Since all of the major compute infrastructure and display servers are located in the central server room directly across the aisle from the AV switching infrastructure, the design allows a researcher to move between any of the major display environments in the building at will without having to worry about moving their applications and data.
The Hunt Library has a premium professional audio infrastructure, with three rooms that have 5.1 surround sound, two rooms with 3D sound capabilities, four audio production rooms with full MIDI keyboards, and a local FM broadcast system that allows each of the major display walls to have its own wireless audio to personal devices and portable systems. The building has a fully networked audio system, making it possible to activate any space as an extension of the sound environment simply by activating a network port and plugging in speakers and microphones.
Computing Infrastructure in the Hunt Library
Integration with campus and college infrastructure: The Hunt Library infrastructure has "service lanes" into central campus compute and storage facilities, such as High-Performance Computing (HPC) and Virtual Computing Lab (VCL), as well as college compute environments, to provide seamless and "anytime, anywhere" access to Hunt spaces and technologies. It is in the Hunt technology roadmap to also provide service lanes to external cloud infrastructure providers such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Dell for burst capabilities or sustained extension of building resources such as storage.
Cloud Computing: In order to enable integration of Hunt visualization resources with central compute resources and central storage, and to enable continuous work on projects when not inside the physical space of the library, a private cloud is the practical and cost-effective solution. The Libraries offers over 100 terabytes of high-performance, research-class storage that is freely available to any member of the community on a registered, time-limited basis to conduct project work in large-scale graphics, modeling, animation, big data, or any other area of compute-based project work or research. The Hunt private cloud is in active development, with active testing and implementation of integration with campus infrastructure and remote, anytime access to compute infrastructure.