Bringing technology and academia together: The making of Digital Social Science Lab

For many years the books and shelves have been retreating from the physical (academic) library space. The space that is gained has with success been used for reading halls and study environment. And it has worked out just well; the students of today have realized the value of getting out of their home to go to place that is made for reading, study and learning without any distractions like the fact that they really rather want to do the dishes than read another chapter on Foucault.

I strongly believe that the access to help with information seeking from librarians plays a big part of this success but when you break it down, the study environment of the library is very much about chairs and tables. To that you can add a variation of different kind of student environment, e.g. group rooms, lounge areas, small study hubs and large reading halls, along with an aestetic and nice atmosphere. And it works – we are great at it, it creates value and the academic libraries will continue to work on this.

We could call it the Traditional study environment.

At The Copenhagen University Library the books and shelves are retreating as well. Every time we use 10 us dollars an electronic resources we are using one dollar on physical books. And we haven’t bought physical journals for ages. So we got a lot of extra spaces to use on chairs and tables. Or something else. Back in fall 2013 I went to New York to check up on the library work done on MOOC’s and copyright services. On the trip I visited Columbia University Library and hooked up with Jeffrey Lancaster which at that time were Emerging Technologies Coordinator and head of Digital Science Center (DSC).

dcl
The Digital Science Center at Columbia University Library

I was blown away. The DSC offered a super cool study environment with badass hardware and software to support research, teaching, education and learning at Columbia. And very important – they had skilled librarians to act as median between academia and the opportunities the new technology offered. The place were packed with students working data sets on big screens and librarians supporting tech and methods. I believe this is not a new deal in America but it is in Denmark and I guess most of Europe too.

I like too call this approach Intelligent study environment.

And now, a big year after, we are ready to do this at Copenhagen University Library. We are creating tree labs at The Faculty Library of Humanities, Faculty Library of Nature and Health Sciences and The Faculty Library of Social Sciences.

At the Faculty Library of Social Sciences we are calling it the Digital Social Science Lab (DSSL). The purpose of DSSL is to support faculty research, education, study and learning by bridging digital tools with academia and skills. The actually physical room is about 80 square meters and the overall master plan involves 8 big and strong cabinets + screens and a menu of relevant software (for social sciences picks could be programs for analyzing data and statistics like R, Stata, NVivo, Atlas and a variety of GIS software) + skills to train students and faculty members in these programs. Besides that we got a palm theme (!) going, a LEGO corner, a turntable with anthropological records and a direct connection on-screen to another library lab / learning common. And then a ton of events focusing on digital tools and methods in social sciences. These events will be facilitated by the library but most of them will be carried out by faculty members. This a strategical important point since I believe that 1) the researcher/faculty member is often better skilled at doing this 2) the researcher/faculty member is a stronger authority than the librarian so students are more likely to show up and 3) it creates a strong connection between faculty and library and the use of the physical library space done by faculty members is a very powerful legitimization of the library.

We used the last couple of months on talking to faculty members and students to gain inspiration on how to land this lab with the outcome of creating true value to the faculty. We now got a good idea of which direction to go, we got a shortlist of software and hardware and next step is looking at the physical setup of the room and start making this happening for real.

Even though the DSSL is far from final we got the first event scheduled: Digital tools in social science witch is co-organized with good faculty members aims to demonstrate some powerful software for qualitative analysis – also known as CAQDAS, Computer-assisted Qualitative Data Analysis – and we got Dr. Christina Silver to come work some magic on this subject. It will be wicked for sure – I’m really thrilled.

The great team around the making of Digital Social Science Lab is, besides me, three great information specialists: Michael Svendsen, Marc Sales and Ulrik Mads Hansen.

We will be posting tons about this in The Library Lab and on twitter: #DSSLucph

This is the first drawing of DSSL dated November 2014:
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26 comments

  1. […] A library learning and data lab is in the context defined as a lab that provides data services (like software for statistics, mapping, visualization and data wrangling and the hardware and skills to support this) and facilitate learning activities within this area. At The Faculty Library of Social Sciences, Copenhagen University Library we are currently in the process on building Digital Social Science Lab. […]

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  2. […] A library data lab is in the context defined as a lab that provides data services (like software for statistics, mapping, visualization and data wrangling and the hardware and skills to support this) and facilitate learning activities within this area. At The Faculty Library of Social Sciences, Copenhagen University Library we are currently in the process on building Digital Social Science Lab. […]

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  3. […] A library data lab is in the context defined as a lab that provides data services (like software for statistics, mapping, visualization and data wrangling and the hardware and skills to support this) and facilitate learning activities within this area. At The Faculty Library of Social Sciences, Copenhagen University Library we are currently in the process on building Digital Social Science Lab. […]

    Like

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