North Carolina State University’s DH Hill Jr. Library, home to more than a million volumes, is named after Daniel Harvey Hill, Jr., an English professor who was one of the original five members of the body NCSU faculty. He was president of the university for several years in the early 1900s. The library was built in phases spanning decades, and the building underwent a major renovation in 2021.
The renovation involved extensive remodeling of the structure, as well as numerous high-tech additions and upgrades, including state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment. These make the Hill Library a unique center for learning, teaching, research, collaboration and experimentation. Audiovisual spaces added in the 2021 upgrade include the Innovation Studio, a place to display virtual reality and other emerging technologies; the Visualization Studio, with immersive 360 degree projection; and the Data Experience Lab, a collaborative space for data science, visualization and analysis. The renovation also includes more group study rooms, more learning labs and more presentation spaces to increase the existing complement of these library spaces. Extron AV switching, distribution, and control are critical to the operation of all of these spaces.
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NCSU’s in-house AV technology team made the strategic decision to implement Extron AV switching, distribution, and control in the Hill Library, in part because they were already using Extron’s GlobalViewer Enterprise software to manage their extensive deployment of Extron systems across many schools. other places of learning. Of equal importance according to Ryan Hunter, NCSU’s Lead AV Professional for Advanced Technology Spaces, was “the level of support Extron provides, coupled with proximity to Extron’s main regional site here in Raleigh.”
Visualization Studio puts viewers at the center of the action
The Visualization Studio is an immersive theatrical experience, designed to showcase engaging content produced by faculty and students across campus. Eight projectors and twelve speakers deliver smooth 360-degree video and enveloping Dolby Atmos surround sound for engaging teaching and learning, research conferences, special projects, and events.
A 16×16 XTP II CrossPoint 1600 matrix switcher is used to select and distribute program content and control signals via shielded twisted-pair cables to the projectors. An XTP receiver on each projector provides HDMI and RS-232 video control signals to the projectors.
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The audio system includes XPA U 1002-70V and NetPA 1001-70V AT amplifiers that deliver audio from analog and Dante sources to an extensive in-wall and ceiling speaker system that includes seven SM 28T speakers at surface mount on the circular wall surrounding the audience and four SF 26PT pendant speakers suspended from the ceiling.
AV functions and room lighting are controlled via a touchscreen interface on an iPad mini running the Extron Control app. Responding to touchscreen selections, an IPCP Pro 555 control processor controls all components of the AV system, while an IPCP Pro 250 controls room lighting.
Innovation Studio allows visitors to interact with exhibits in 3D space
The Innovation Studio is a learning space that showcases student and faculty work using a new interactive projection experience. Ten-foot-by-5-foot projection surfaces appear on four tables in each of the studio’s quadrants. A 4K laser projector on the ceiling above each table points downward, beaming content onto each table. A depth camera detects users’ hand movements in 3D space above tabletops as they interact with what is being projected, emulating a touch screen, but without “touching” it. The experiment is driven by software from Relative Scale, a Raleigh-based company that has several NCSU alumni on staff.
The venue can be reconfigured to present workshops and events by turning off the exhibits and moving the roller tables. Three standard projectors with drop-down screens are then used for the presentations.
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Again, an XTP II CrossPoint 1600 matrix switcher and XTP SR HD 4K HDMI receivers handle AV switching and distribution to the projectors and audio system. The contents of the four display tables come from four PCs. Content for standard presentations comes from three XTP T HWP 101 4K HDMI wall plate transmitters. Five MPA 601 mono amplifiers drive ten ceiling-mounted loudspeakers above tables and in presentation areas. Operation of the AV system is controlled from a TLP Pro 1220MG 12-inch wall mount TouchLink Pro touchpanel via an IPCP Pro 555 control processor.
AV improves data visualization in the Data Experience Lab and South Learning Lab
The nearby Data Experience Lab and South Learning Lab offer tools to help students and faculty gain expertise in data science and digital scholarship. Here, library staff provide instruction on organizing and mining datasets, creating data visualizations using graphs of many shapes, and using geospatial methodologies. Campus groups focused on data science and digital research also use these spaces as meeting hubs. Multimedia is key to the data visualization techniques practiced in these labs. The Data Experience Lab is used for small group demonstrations. The South Learning Lab is designed as an active learning classroom for large and small groups.
The Data Experience lab includes an 86-inch interactive flat-panel touchscreen. HDMI video and audio are transmitted to the display from a PC, wireless access point or HDMI connector wall plate by an HC 404 meeting space collaboration system The flat panel’s touch port and its wireless keyboard-mouse connect to the PC via a USB Extender Plus transceiver pair. User control is via a wall-mounted NBP 106 D network button panel.
The South Learning Lab has many sources and displays of AV content. An XTP II CrossPoint 1600 matrix switcher is used to select and distribute program content and control signals. Students can share HDMI content by connecting to six XTP T HWP 101 4K HDMI Wall Transmitters or by connecting to seven wireless access points. The instructor’s desk contains a guest PC and HDMI connection, both of which deliver content to the matrix switcher via XTP transmitters. Video from a PTZ camera connected to the console PC’s USB port is also available. The two ceiling-mounted projectors and six 48-inch active learning displays all receive signals from the XTP matrix switch.
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The room audio system includes overhead network microphones, wireless microphones, and program audio streams from the matrix switcher via analog and Dante network sources. An MPA 601 amplifier drives the loudspeakers in the room.
The AV system is controlled by an IPCP Pro 555 control processor. There are two touchscreen user interfaces: one on an iPad mini running the Extron Control app and the other on a TLP Pro 1220TG 12-inch Tabletop touchscreen TouchLink Pro at the instructor’s desk.
Group study rooms with AV on all floors are convenient collaborative spaces
Group study rooms are great places to share ideas. Each seats four people around a table, has a side wall devoted to a whiteboard, and a front wall containing a 48-inch flat screen. Participants can share HDMI content through an HC 402 meeting space collaboration system via a wired connection to an HC 402 wall transmitter or via a wireless access point. Users control the AV system on a wall mounted NBP 106 D button panel next to the transmitter wall plate.
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As students returned to campus for the fall 2021 semester, North Carolina State University’s Hill and Hunt Libraries held multi-day welcome events to raise awareness of services, spaces, and expertise offered by libraries, including the converted Hill Library building. After a year-long hiatus due to COVID-19, a full schedule of virtual and in-person workshops, seminars, and events took place in fall 2021, many of which were presented in HyFlex formats that welcomed in-person attendees in the new Audiovisual Spaces as well as remote attendees.
A small sampling of engaging and educational experiences featured in these spaces include screenings and commentary on vintage 16mm film, news and documentaries curated by a local company founded by an NCSU alumnus, and a series of workshops that teach the analysis and visualization of geospatial data through layer building maps. After a “soft” opening giving access to limited groups of faculty and students, Hill Library and its many new technology spaces became accessible to all in mid-August 2021. Given its long history of constantly reinventing, the DH Hill Jr Library will be the scene of future renovations and upgrades. For now, people who walk through its doors enjoy state-of-the-art audio-visual technology that holds the interest of even the latest generation of students accustomed to ubiquitous technology in all aspects of their lives.