On April 3, North Carolina State University will officially dedicate the James B. Hunt Jr. Library. Named for North Carolina’s governor from 1977 to 1985 and 1993 to 2001, the library will also house the Institute for Emerging Issues, a public policy think tank established by Hunt.
The Hunt Library’s state of the art features include Five Christie MicroTiles high-definition display walls for large-scale visualization, a Game Lab, a Teaching and Visualization Lab, a Creativity Studio, 3-D printing and extensive digital media production facilities, and videoconferencing and telepresence.
The school invested $9 million in these technologies, which were pretested for two years in the 1,700 square foot Technology Sandbox by Maurice York, head of IT for Hunt and 2013 LJ Mover & Shaker, and his 22-member team. York even converted an office in the old library into a “Mini Hunt”—a perfect miniature replica of the full-scale technology infrastructure of the Hunt Library, with computing, digital imaging, and “digital media backbone” technology funded by $300,000 in donations and equipment loans from tech companies Dell, Christie Digital, and Extron.
However, dwarfing all the rest of the library’s technology is the bookBot automated retrieval system, which can hold two million volumes in one ninth the space of conventional shelving (and usually deliver them within five minutes). To make sure students and faculty don’t lose the experience of serendipity, Virtual Browse lets them see materials classified near the resources found by their initial search (though not, actually, shelved with them, since the bookBot houses materials by height in more than 18,000 metal bins).
Early projects that have already made use of the library’s technologies since it opened in January include a simulator to train naval ROTC midshipmen to operate the bridge of a modern warship, a 3-D recreation of St. Paul’s Cross during John Donne’s tenure at the cathedral, a student-created video game based on the Hunt Library’s book circulation patterns, and prototypes of a range of engineering projects, including tactile models to allow the visually impaired to navigate complex traffic intersections.
“This building was designed from the start to be an icon, a dramatic representation of how transformational technology and a commitment to the growth of our community will thrust NC State University even further into the foreground,” said Chancellor W. Randolph Woodson.
“Our vision was to give NC State a signature library that would help us recruit the very best students and the very best faculty and to serve the community as an inspiring place of excellence and passion and ideas and vision,” agreed Susan K. Nutter, vice provost and director of the NCSU Libraries, and 2005 LJ Librarian of the Year. “You cannot be in this building without realizing that something very important is happening at this university.”