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MSU Libraries installs new modern vibe with virtual reality and comic books

March 22, 2018
<p>Students and staff work in the Digital Scholarship Lab at the Main Library on March 20, 2018. (Charles Benoit | State News)</p>

Students and staff work in the Digital Scholarship Lab at the Main Library on March 20, 2018. (Charles Benoit | State News)

Photo by Charles Benoit | The State News

MSU Libraries has a fresh new vibe after two major renovations within the last year. The Special Collections, which includes more than 450,000 rare printed works, was newly renovated and opened to the public on Aug. 18, 2017 and was moved from the basement level to the first floor with an exhibition space. The Digital Scholarship Lab, the latest edition located on the second floor west wing, opened five weeks ago. 

The new state-of-the-art lab was produced in tandem with the College of Arts and Letters. It offers a range of computer softwares available to the MSU community, along with a 360-degree immersive visualization studio, the first of its kind in an academic university in the country.

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“Right near the entrance we have the 360-degree visualization room. That can put video or image or a virtual reality environment up in a 360-degree immersive visualization,”  Head of Digital Scholarship and Maker Space Services Terence O’Neill said. “So as opposed to a virtual reality where it's one person having the individual experience in their headset, the 360 you can have 15 people working through the ruins in Greece working through the 360-degree camera.”

In addition to the Digital Scholarship Lab, O’Neill helped create Selma D. and Stanley C. Hollander MakeCentral: Makerspace, which is an alternative space that encourages cross discipline collaboration and learning.

All students, faculty, staff and non-MSU affiliated guest can submit files to be 3-D printed, laser or vinyl cut using Hollander MakeCentral 3-D machinery. 

Though the new Digital Scholarship Lab only opened five weeks ago, it offers a variety of resources for tech-savvy students.  

“We also have 25 computers equipped with a variety of free design an analysis software to facilitate 3-dimensional design or video game design, or network and textual analysis,” O’Neill said. “All of those softwares might be relevant to anyone on campus, so we're hoping that people who might not have access will be able to come here and find some support.”  

The Digital Scholarship Lab also includes enclosed study rooms and a number of desks to ensure there is enough space for everyone.

The lab also offers virtual reality services to students and non-students on campus. There are two sets of platforms to work with: HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift. Visitors at the lab can access the virtual reality on Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

The new renovations on the second floor came with help from College in the Arts and Humanities, which oversaw significant portions of the construction of the Digital Scholarship Lab.

“They (Residential College in the Arts and Humanities) had a lot of input on to what would be the most useful. They are made up of students, faculty and staff, so they had a slightly different perspective on what types of things would be valuable,” O’Neill said. “A lot of our core users come from the College of Arts and Letters. Their use shows us, ‘OK, what types of digital displays will make a difference in those classes.’”

English senior Alex Babbitt said he finds the Digital Scholarship Lab resourceful and said it is a cool way to connect with other students in digital humanities. Babbitt is a student worker for the MSU Libraries in the lab. 

“There are so many resources here that you can’t find anywhere else on campus. If you're doing anything digital scholarship related, we don’t necessarily have a definition for that because its open ended on purpose, there are a ton of resources for you here,” Babbitt said. “This space makes me feel like there is nothing digital scholarship wise that I can’t do at MSU, the resources are here and concentrated in this space whether it's on the computers or in the minds of the people.”

In addition to major renovations, the first floor of the MSU Libraries received a facelift as well. The newly-formed Special Collections section was constructed in the summer of 2017. 

“When you walk in you have the service desk, and that’s where you request your materials or pick up your holds to then go into the reading room to research them,” Social Media and Marketing Coordinator for MSU Libraries Katie Diamond said. 

Diamond is a 2013 MSU alumna with a degree in advertising. 

“We also have the beautiful special collections gallery cases that are brand new that will feature three exhibits per year," Diamond said. "The first debut exhibit we have this year is the special women in comics exhibits, and that will be up through June 2018. In August 2018 we will have an African exhibit up as part of the year of global Africa."

The Special Collections includes one of the biggest comic book collections in the country with more than  300,000 additions. The collection also features a signed first edition copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald's “The Great Gatsby.” 

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“We do have the special collections seminar room, too, which you can get to from the area where the gallery cases are at. In there we bring in classes and we do instruction sessions,” Diamond said. “It’s more engaging than sitting in the classroom talking about an ancient book. They can actually handle it and look at it. We have books on any topic you can imagine. The key is they are primary source materials.”

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