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W&M Libraries Digital Research Lab

Planning and design of a public research lab in W&M Libraries

Digital Research Lab

The Digital Research Lab* will include a large digital canvas that will enable students and researchers to analyze data of all kinds, and engage the community with visual representations of their research. It will provide a flexible, hands on lab space for faculty to teach students concepts and demonstrate the use of data and visualization across the curriculum, from big data sets for computer science, to core drill samples for geology, to GIS uses for archaeology. It will be located in the busiest, most visible part of our library. Learning will be visible and encourage students from across the college to experiment and drop in. It’s a space that will bring experts to collaborate, and entice the introvert with little exposure. Everyone will be welcome and encouraged to experiment and learn. 

Community Engagement

Faculty Focus groups

Two faculty sessions were held back-to-back on July 27, 2021at  9am  and 11:30am.

Architects, designers and a technology consultant held a facilitated discussion with faculty and administrators  to discuss needs and current challenges with space related to teaching with technology.

Student focus groups with architects & designers September 22, 2021

Two student focus groups were held in back‐to‐back sessions at 11:30 and 12:30 on September 22nd.
Survey: September 15, 2021 to October 10, 2021, 241 responses.
Architects, designers and a technology consultant held a facilitated discussion with students to discuss survey feedback and solicit thoughts and opinions on the planned renovation.

Video Walk-through

Walk through our vision for the Digital Research Lab in this video.

Digital Research Lab Program Plan and Cost

Review the final study here, including background, design phases, final plan, and estimated cost.


Earl Gregg Swem Library currently houses the Center for Geospatial Analysis, a modest space tucked away on the second floor of the library. There is no space for designated for digital humanities. We know scholars and learners need an inspiring space to experiment and engage with digital tools.
Data visualization, digital humanities, data science and geospatial information systems are areas that can benefit from a collaborative space to work and find expertise.
The “Architecture of Happiness” by Alain De Botton talks about the indelible connection between our identities and our locations. We embrace this philosophy and are easing ourselves into new roles- as facilitators, leaders and partners- as it relates to space for teaching and learning.  This lab will draw people in, encourage new relationships and result in new scholarship.
Great learning spaces can be a disappointment if they aren’t managed well. It’s a missed opportunity if libraries don’t embrace partners who bring deep expertise when developing new learning environments. Our partners will include the Center for Geospatial Analysis, academic departments, the Vice Provost for Research, the Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation, and continues to grow to include other campus entities.
The audience for this project are the students, faculty, staff, and community partners of the College of William & Mary.
The academic programs that will benefit from the space and coordination: 
  • Data Science
  • Social Science Research Methods Center (SSRMC)
  • Center for Geospatial Analysis (CGA)
  • Global Research Institute
  • AidData
  • Institute for Integrative Conservation
  • Computational Foreign Language Analytics
  • Computational Anthropology
  • Business Analytics
  • Computational Applied Math and Statistics (CAMS)
  • Systematic Text Analysis for International Relations (STAIR)
  • Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations (ITPIR)
  • Computational Linguistics (CELL)
  • BioMath Initiative
  • Center for African Development (CAD)
  • Roy R. Charles Center for Academic Excellence 
There is currently no space for these groups to work together across campus. Having the information experts available in a shared space with these academic teammates will be a model for raising awareness for licensed content, open data and information in general. Specific information needs include data sets, maps, and resources for text and data mining.  Information needs are important, however, library users/William & Mary students and faculty and not just consumers of information. They are also creators of new information, making discoveries of their own. Students and scholars are an important part of the scholarly communication cycle. The digital research lab* will give them the spaces and resources as well as access to experts to create and share their research and scholarship.

Digital Research Lab Planning Meetings

June 11, 2019

August 13, 2019

September 18, 2019 Joan Lippencott. the Associate Executive Director for the Coalition of Networked Information, and organization that convenes library and IT leaders for the purpose of planning and responding to campus needs related to technology, teaching and research. Her talk will highlight digital projects around the country and how libraries are supporting this work. She is a leading voice in higher education for IT and libraries:

October 30, 2019

November 20, 2019

November 22, 2019  Field trips to inspirational spaces (Entrepreneurship Hub, Fairfield Library)

December 13, 2019

February 26, 2020

March 17, 2021


Associate Dean of Research & Public Services

Profile Photo
Lisa Nickel
Associate Dean of Research & Public Services
Swem Library 104