Dataspace Survey + Tiny Café

In January and February, 2019, we asked users for feedback on the Dataspace at Hunt Library. We were particularly interested to apply lessons from the Dataspace to planning work for the Data Experience Lab, slated to open in the D. H. Hill Jr. Library in August 2020.


The Dataspace opened at Hunt Library in August 2018. After one semester, we sought feedback. We received 132 survey responses and talked to 28 library users in Tiny Café sessions.


  • How do users find out about the Dataspace?
  • Does the Dataspace have the hardware and software users need?
  • Does the Dataspace have the tables and chairs users need?
  • What feedback do users have about the help available in the Dataspace?
  • What could we do to improve the Dataspace?


We were pleased by the proportion of positive feedback. Survey respondents appreciated the hardware, software and help offered by the Dataspace.

By far the most common way people learned about the Dataspace was walking by it at Hunt Library, underlining the importance of visibility of this space and future spaces. At the Tiny Café session at Hill Library, only two of 14 participants knew about the Dataspace; 13 of 14 participants at the Tiny Café session at Hunt Library knew the Dataspace was there.

Lessons learned about hardware, software, and furniture in the Dataspace at Hunt Library will be useful as we plan for the Data Experience Lab, a part of the renovation of the Hill Library.


We have the hardware (according to 93% of survey respondents) and software (91%) they need.

Survey respondents liked the workstations designed to accommodate their laptops. They want more of them.


Survey respondents experience confusion and frustration regarding the availability of computers. Computers are reservable online. Currently, the only way to know if a computer is reserved is to look it up online. Many users don’t look up reservation statuses online, pick an unused computer, and then soon thereafter are asked to leave by someone with a reservation. (This issue mirrors a known issue with reservations for group study rooms.)

Some survey respondents want us to better communicate that Dataspace computers are reserved for data intensive work, not for checking email and other tasks that could be done elsewhere.

Some survey respondents said computers in the Dataspace did not have enough RAM.

Many Tiny Café participants expressed a preference for being provided the opportunity to download software to their own computers rather than having it available in the Libraries or computer labs.


More of everything:

  • Computers
  • Whiteboards
  • Table space
  • Laptop stations
  • Options for group work
  • A bigger space

More and better enforcement of rules, including reservations, noise, and only using Dataspace computers for data-intensive tasks.

Users want administrative rights to install software on computers.

Remote monitoring/access for long duration processes.


To address the issue of computer availability, provide a very visible digital display showing which computers are reserved when during the day. This addresses one of Jakob Nielsen's principles for interaction design: “visibility of system status.” Data Science Consultants could also better monitor computer reservations to proactively ensure a machine is available for the person who reserved it. 
September 2019 update: We installed an iPad kiosk that displays all the reservations for computers in the Dataspace for the next 6 hours. Patrons and staff are able to quickly tell which workstations are available for drop-in use.

Regarding insufficient RAM, it is possible that those survey respondents were not talking about the new computers we installed in the space but rather three older GIS computers we relocated from the Hunt Library 4th floor Learning Commons. Those particular workstations have significantly less RAM than was advertised on our website. We plan to upgrade those computers to match the others to meet the expectation of uniformly equipped machines in the Dataspace.

Regarding users’ suggestions to enforce rules about reservations, noise, and computer use, we should A) train the Data Science Consultants who work in the Dataspace to more actively monitor for non-data-related tasks, and B) have a wider conversation about how this should be addressed in the Dataspace and other library spaces that have similar issues, such as the Hill Library's Digital Media Lab and the Bloomberg Lab.

As we design the future Data Experience Lab at the Hill Library, we should consider more space for laptop workstations and empty table space.

How We Did It

In January and February, 2019, we conducted a survey. We surveyed users who had reserved computers in the Dataspace, which yielded 117 responses. We advertised a URL for the survey on a whiteboard and paper handouts in the Dataspace, which yielded 15 responses.

In February, 2019, we held a Tiny Café session to ask questions about the Dataspace and about software. We talked to 14 participants at Hill Library and 14 more at Hunt Library.