Data Science and Visualization Space user research

In Spring 2018, we conducted a survey, follow-up interviews with surveyed faculty, and a focus group with graduate students to learn more about the computing, data, and visualization needs of our community. What we learned has helped us plan the future Dataspace at the Hunt Library.


We are planning to offer more advanced computing options at the Hunt Library, services to help patrons with data and visualization, and workshops. We conducted a survey, did follow-up interviews with surveyed faculty, and a focus group with graduate students to help shape our plans. 

Questions we asked and what we heard

What would you like to be able to do on library computers?
Top three survey responses: Data analysis; data visualization; programming.

Why would you use library computers?
Top three survey responses: "I need faster processors;" "I need more system RAM;" "I do not have access to the software I need."
Focus group participants mentioned their desire to use more powerful computers to save time.

Which operating system(s) do you need?
Survey responses: Windows (37 responses); Linux (29); Mac (17).

What speciality software would you use on library computers?
Top three survey responses: Adobe Suite; Tableau; Visual Studio.

How large are the datasets you typically work with?
Survey responses:
10GB-1TB (33 respondents)
< 10GB (25)
> 1TB (13)

What kind of data do you work with?
Top three survey responses: quantitative; image; time series / event.

Are you interested in game design, game programming, or games research?
Survey responses: Yes (20); No (42).

Other topics brought up by participants:

  • Ability to transfer large datasets to and from library computers.
  • The library could provide computing "sandboxes / testbeds."
  • "Large storage for data while processing."
  • The library could "check out" temporary access to storage space. Focus group participants imagined needing to check out storage space for times varying from hours to one month. 
  • The need for privacy for some data / projects.

What we heard from our community has helped our planning process for a new space opening at the Hunt Library in Fall 2018, the Dataspace. Outfitted with specialized hardware and software, and staffed with data science expertise, the Dataspace will be a hub where NC State students, faculty, and researchers can converge to collaborate, work independently, and learn through workshops and consultations.

How We Did It

In January 2018 we surveyed 207 members of the NCSU community. They were a mix of people who have reserved specialty computers at the Libraries or the Game Lab at Hunt Library, and selected graduate students and faculty. We received 67 responses (45 graduate studens, 13 faculty, three undergraduates, and six others).

Karen Ciccone, department head of Data & Visualization Services, followed up on the survey with one-on-one interviews with six faculty.

David Woodbury, department head of Learning Spaces & Services, and Josh Boyer, department head of User Experience, conducted a focus group in February with three engineering graduate students who had participated in the survey.