Northeastern to expand library’s cutting-edge Digital Media Commons

Rendering provided by Wilson Architects/Mohar Design.

Building on the Digital Media Commons’ successful launch last year, Northeastern will expand the cutting-edge workspace to the first floor of Snell Library. The upgrades, which will be completed by the start of the fall semester, are part of a series of developments throughout the building. The space will include enhanced technology-focused space to support immersive learning and collaboration, including a 3-D printing facility, upgraded studios, and next-generation audio/visual infrastructure.

“This new space is yet another manifestation of our ongoing commitment to the university’s teaching and research enterprise,” said Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “We are excited to increase student and faculty access to the latest technologies and resources to support their innovative projects.”

Rendering provided by Wilson Architects/Mohar Design.

Construction is underway on the first floor, where new, modern study spaces will be integrated with a revamped InfoCommons computer lab that will offer more than 170 new workstations. The university will also add more than 20 new rooms designed for group study and collaboration, as well as more informal study spaces with a range of seating and desk options. Existing Snell classrooms will be relocated to a new classroom wing featuring audio/visual infrastructure designed to support group learning and immersive teaching through upgraded technology, including lecture capture and videoconferencing.

During the construction period, the InfoCommons computer lab, the Information Services Help Desk, the first-floor study areas, and the circulation and interlibrary loan services have been distributed to several locations throughout library.

Additional first-floor enhancements will include a singular unified service desk that is resourced by library and information services staff; a walk-in discovery and innovation lab; an increased number of printers distributed across several locations; a newly designed “Hub” meeting and reading space; and a new security system at the library’s front doors, which will be designed to speed entry to the building.

The Digital Media Commons reflects the changing role of the university library and information services units within the Northeastern community. In recent years, areas that once held library print and microfilm collections have seen their contents relocated or replaced by digital formats, allowing Northeastern to modernize and create facilities that support learning, innovation, and discovery by students and faculty in new ways.

The Digital Media Commons, launched last fall on Snell Library’s second floor, features an innovative media lab and a digital creativity center where students and faculty can utilize a range of technologies, such as new animation, audio and video editing, 3-D modeling, and game-design software that allows students to create and present interactive media-rich content. The facility’s data-analysis capabilities and computer-aided design tools, fully supported by librarians and IS technical experts, provide users with the ability to work across disciplinary boundaries to explore innovative solutions to real-world problems.

Director said another construction phase of the expansion is planned for the fall, which will result in a new faculty commons support center—an integrated service point for faculty, doctoral students, and others to access high-level services for teaching and research. The support center, the result of a partnership between Snell Library, Information Services, and the Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning through Research, will offer such services as support for course design and development, digital scholarship, media creation and integration, digital archival tools, text encoding, geographic information systems tools, software tutorials, and other content, technology, and project-management assistance.

Students have played an important role in the ongoing development of Snell Library through surveys and town hall meetings. Northeastern convened a meeting in January comprising university officials and representatives of the Student Government Association and the Graduate Student Government to discuss topics ranging from the library’s commitment to sustainability to the availability of study space. University Libraries has also conducted two major surveys in the last year, asking students about their preferences for study space and new technology.

Kristina Lopez, a fourth-year criminal justice major and the SGA’s outgoing vice president for academic affairs, helped organize January’s town hall meeting. In a recent interview, she praised the Digital Media Commons, saying that the “technical upgrades are really cool.”

She also agreed with the library’s decision to convert many of it print collections to digital collections of e-books, journals, and periodicals. As someone who spends upward of three hours a day in the library, reading, studying, and writing papers, Lopez is happy to have more space to work. “It’s definitely a plus,” she said.

Ren­dering pro­vided by Wilson Architects/​Mohar Design.