A panorama display of monitors lighting an interactive view of Earth captivated a student a room away in the University of Connecticut’s Homer D. Babbidge Library, director of Library Information Technology Services Tony Molloy recounts. The student, a geography major, ducked under the print station platform’s rails and pressed her face against the glass walls of the room to get a better view.
“Would you like to see it up close?” Molloy told her.
UConn Libraries are working to introduce a series of cutting edge technologies into student accessible venues. The particular innovation that so amazed the geography student was the Liquid Galaxy, a data visualization tool for working with Google Earth images of the Earth, Moon and Mars.
“You can go anywhere interesting,” Molloy said. “For an archaeology professor you can go to a dig site, you can interactively take students there.”
Library staff are currently considering working on moving the Galaxy into Babbidge’s second floor study area.
“It’ll be the first thing in your view after walking up the stairs,” ITS Operations Coordinator Raul Potenciano said. The displays are expected to take the place of one of the print stations.
Another upcoming innovation will be the Mobile Collaboration Station, a large PC mounted on a tripod with wheels. The device was just recently upgraded to Windows 10 and includes the option to swap between tablet and PC settings.
Students working in groups will be able to move the monitor between them, connect their devices and upload files through OneDrive or SkyBox, Potenciano said.
“It’s a big flat panel for anything you want to collaborate on,” Molloy said. “It’s experimental. We want to see how students use it.”
Molloy and Potenciano then demonstrated the 3D printers coming to Babbidge. The pair said they’ve been working extensively with UConn’s student 3-D Printing Club.
They currently have three printers: the most expensive (about $2500) was the Ultimaker 2, which came readymade and could be seen, as we spoke, printing a graphic blue “UConn” lettering.
The Rostock Max V2 required collaborative building and work with the 3D Printing Club. Molloy and Potenciano said that they have previously used the printers for everything from toy boats to Pokémon action figures to camera mounts for quadcopters.
The third printer, Solidoodle, has been “cranky,” Molloy said.
“Thankfully the 3-D Printing club love taking things apart and putting them back together,” Molloy added.
Vice Provost for UConn Libraries Martha Bedard noted that some students in the engineering department and 3-D Printing Club members already have access to 3-D printing, but it’s the first time that it will be available at a central place on campus.
“Now we’re trying to figure out a cost structure,” Molloy said. “We can’t have people printing a thousand mugs but we also want it to be affordable.”
“The question now when students print is ‘Paper or Plastic?’” Bedard added.
The staff noted that they plan to employ about ten students to work at the 3-D print stations and have already hired one member of the club.
Both the Liquid Galaxy and the 3-D printers are expected to be available in the spring semester.
The final item on the innovation tour was the Ideum Touch Table, funded by an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant, currently employed in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
The Dodd Center houses a number of rare books and documents, including the historic Nuremberg Trial Papers of Sen. Thomas J. Dodd, who worked as Executive Trial Counsel for the war crime trials. The Touch Table is being used to present digital copies of these documents to students and the public.
“It’s an attempt to get that stuff out into the world and make it more accessible,” curator of the Human Rights Collections Graham Stinnett said.
Much like the Mobile Collaboration Station, the table’s potential uses are still be explored and experimented with.
“We’re undergoing a test to see if people will engage with these spaces in a non-traditional way,” Stinnett said.
Bedard expressed excitement at the innovations.
“We’re doing all we can here,” Bedard said. “We have no shortage of ideas.”
Christopher McDermott is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.