Research Commons and Viz Lab update

I thought I would start by utilizing a talk I gave in March this year to an ALIA Leadership group.


However this became a frustrating exercise to find a way to capture and display the powerpoint slides which are mostly pictures to also incorporate the notes which captures what I talked to. If you know a way or a software that will do that let me know.  In the meantime if you click on the above image it takes you to slideshare via LinkedIn where I have placed a copy of the powerpoint, and  I transpose below the notes I spoke to for your pleasure and information.


Graeme Oke (pronounced Oak)  is the Coordinator, Research Advantage at La Trobe University Library. He manages a team of Senior Research Advisors to support HDR students and research staff from the Arts Social Science and Commerce College. Formally, at La Trobe he has been a faculty librarian and team leader for the Science Technology and Engineering team. He has worked in University libraries for over twenty years.  He has been involved in the development of the Research Commons at the La Trobe library and has had regular hands on experience in the bookings, enquiries, familiarisations and troubleshooting of the Visualisation Laboratory and Creative Studio in the Research Commons.





Q1. (To the pair) Tell us about your project/program/activity and what value you feel it brings, and why it could be considered innovative. 10 min (You may like to have a powerpoint presentation for this part)


[Slide 2]

“The Research Commons is an innovative space, housed within and managed by the Library It provides world class infrastructure and services to support the University’s research community.

I’ve tried to make it a visual presentation to give you a perspective of what it is that we are talking about.  If you happen to come out to La Trobe library Melbourne campus in the future I’m sure we could arrange for a tour.  It is very impressive when you see it in the flesh!

It is located at the North End of level 2 of the library building comprising of a large break out space 6 breakout rooms some that have plasma screens for plugging in your byo device.  A scanner room.  The creative studio (room 2.11) that can accommodate 12 people comfortably and the VizLab 2.10 that can accommodate up to 50 people

This space before restructure had formally been staff offices, Meeting rooms, AV services, and AV viewing rooms.

Speak to slide? Explain what is what?

{Slide 3]

The Research Commons is modelled on international examples and is the first dedicated research collaboration space with a large-scale high definition visualisation lab to be located entirely within a University Library in Australia.

The RC was opened on the 30th May 2016 and officially launched on the 18th October 2016.

The Research Commons is in a central location of the Melbourne campus of La Trobe. This allows it to be a showcase and meeting space for postgraduate students, academic and research staff from all schools and faculties.  It has the potential for being a meeting space with government, industry and commercial partners. It supports the University’s Future Ready plans for research excellence.

The picture on the left shows the break out space.  This was a CAVAL Librarian event that we purposely hosted to show the newly opened Research Commons in October 2016.

The picture on the right was a high level ASSC college seminar lead via video conference with a speaker talking to the room from London UK.

[Slide 4]

The Research Commons directly supports the La Trobe University Research Plan (2013-2017), in which the DVC-R, Keith Nugent states “By focusing on support and infrastructure that assists staff to build and maintain their research careers, the University will attract, retain and support academic staff who conduct world-class research contributing to local and national innovation.

[Slide 5]

The Research Commons also provides services and infrastructure to support major goals of the Research Plan to

  • Improve research quality and impact, through the “investment in state of the art IT and e-Research infrastructure” and to
  • “Improve La Trobe’s research-based international ranking – through promoting research.” It supports this through the provision of support for excellent researchers, regardless of their research area, as the Research Commons is a discipline-neutral space available to all researchers.

[Slide 6]

The Research Commons contributes to the University’s Digital Research Strategy by providing a training space, a technology intensive facility and collaboration spaces, which support the four main goals, which are to:

  • Enable researchers to actively engage with information and computing technologies
  • Develop Digital Research expertise among researchers within the University
  • Proactively enhance institutional research capabilities
  • Maximise the use and enable proper management and curation of research data




[Slide 7]

The research commons provides

  • To provide a high-quality research environment that provides physical and networked opportunities for researchers to meet, exchange ideas and engage in the research process
  • To provide a high resolution video wall that can support high-definition data visualisations, anayltics and simulations, and simultaneous displays of multiple information inputs (such as multiple researchers sharing their screens, external collaborators via video-conference)
  • To provide high definition videoconferencing and multimedia screens with sufficient bandwidth to support networked collaboration across campuses, with partners and with researchers in other institutions
  • To provide spaces for consultation between researchers and service providers from the Library, Research Office, & a collegiate research environment that attracts current and future La Trobe researchers
  • Access to data visualisation, GIS/mapping and text-analysis tools
  • Allows for Connection and collaboration with researchers across disciplines and campuses
  • Provides a space to host workshops and presentations
  • Showcases La Trobe’s research
  • Allows for a meeting space with research partners and sponsors from business, community and government


Q2. (to library/GLAMR rep) What challenges did you face working with an organisation/individual outside the normal scope of your organisation? 5 min 


[Slide 8]


Implementation and testing of the Research Commons has involved a number of major stakeholders

Library team (Research and facilities teams),


Infrastructure and Operations (in the initial building and then the ongoing maintenance of the building and environment)

External AV providers.

Partnering with stakeholders e.g. College and University research


There have been a number of technical issues and we are continually working to resolve these issues. 


Communication of updates & issues to this wide range of stakeholders an ongoing challenge.  On has to manage both up and down and sideways when dealing with such a range of stakeholders. 


From a liaison and facilitator point of view it has been a challenge to work out how to use the equipment, develop procedures of use and then to facilitate and teach potential users of the technology in the space.


A major challenge has been the flip in prime use of the Viz Lab.  The initial brief to our ICT AV was to have the 4K high resolution computer fully functional with a host of specialised software to assist the visualisation environment.  The reality has been that the Viz Lab has had a far greater use as a meeting space for high-level day seminars, conferences and meetings requiring video conferencing and presentation software.   Our expectation is to develop more use of the space for its intended purpose. 


Q3. (to partner) Why did you decide to work with <library/GLAMR org> and what was the benefit to you/your org? What were the pleasant surprises about partnering with the organisation, and what advice would you give others considering similar? 5min​


[Slide 9]


In our environment not so much a decision to work together more of an understanding and expectation we would work together for the benefit of La Trobe & users of the space.  In collaborating we have learnt to be resourceful and considerate of each other’s’ needs.  We have learnt to monitor and be considerate of users’ expectations.  Through partnering we have learnt tips and tricks on using the equipment more effectively from each other.  Through partnering we have learnt efficient ways of monitoring and tracking technical issues.


Advice to give others would be to;

  • Expect teething problems.
  • Expect time to train staff in using complex technology
  • Set up service and contractual agreements when dealing with external suppliers for ongoing maintenance.
  • Allow time to play and explore the equipment.

[Slide 10]


  • Develop good clear procedures of use (provided instructions often insufficient).
  • Develop good familiarisation process.
  • Consider a clear and open booking process so that both the users and overseers of the space are clear on expectations.
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