Coming Soon to Bostock Library: The Research Commons

Architectural rendering of the Research Commons on the first floor of Bostock Library.
Architectural rendering of the Research Commons on the first floor of Bostock Library. Renovations will take place May-November 2014.

By Aaron Welborn

Duke is the kind of place where an undergraduate political science major can work side-by-side with graduate students studying the mental health effects of refugee resettlement. Or where a Ph.D. student in civil and environmental engineering can lend a hand to a team of researchers gathering epidemiological data in Latin America.

Increasingly, Duke students and researchers are conducting their work in the context of interdisciplinary collaborations like these. That’s because real-world problems don’t fit into traditional academic boxes. They demand a collaborative approach, involving teams of individuals from diverse backgrounds who can share expertise and find new solutions.

Research like this isn’t confined to the classroom or laboratory. It happens in the places where academic boundaries intersect—places like the library.

To meet the growing needs of interdisciplinary, team-based, and data-driven research, the Duke University Libraries are in the process of transforming the first floor of Bostock Library into a new academic service hub equipped with tools and workspaces for digital scholarship, reservable rooms for project teams, and expanded technology and training facilities.

The new space, which we’re tentatively calling the “Research Commons,” will officially open in January 2015. The improvements will allow for more technology-focused library services, more spaces for collaborative work, and an attractive new destination for students and faculty in the heart of campus.

Floor plan of the Research Commons, which will occupy the entire first floor of Bostock Library. Click on the image to see a larger version.
Floor plan of the Research Commons, which will occupy the entire first floor of Bostock Library. Click on the image to see a larger version.

The main period of renovation activity will be May through November 2014, in order to minimize disruptions to students and faculty. Funding for the $3.5 million project was made possible through the Libraries’ Duke Forward Campaign, with especially generous support by Todd and Karen Ruppert and the Bostock Family.

The Research Commons will increase the Libraries’ ability to support interdisciplinary and team-based teaching and learning at Duke, such as the innovative projects emerging from the Bass Connections initiative. The space will bring together the Libraries’ Brandaleone Data and GIS Services Lab (relocated from the second floor of Perkins Library); workshop and presentation space for groups large (45-50 people) and small (6-8 people); reservable and drop-in project rooms; and expert library staff assistance, available on-site or by appointment.

“The goal of the Research Commons is to allow individual researchers and project teams to experiment with new ideas and approaches with experts, technology and training available in close proximity,” said Deborah Jakubs, Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and the Vice Provost for Library Affairs. “It will be the kind of space that invites discovery, experimentation, and collaboration.”

Plans for the Research Commons came about through a multi-year planning process in which faculty, students, and library staff explored emerging trends in teaching and research at Duke. One of the findings from that process was that, as higher education evolves (witness the explosion of online learning, to cite just one example), libraries must also evolve to remain the vital center of intellectual life. We must expand our role as a partner in innovation by providing spaces, services, and materials that act as catalysts for experimentation and originality.

To accomplish this vision, the Libraries are working with the architectural firm Shepley Bulfinch, the same firm that designed and built Bostock Library and the von der Heyden Pavilion in 2005, renovated Perkins Library between 2006 and 2008, and is directing the current renovation of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

In order to make room for the Research Commons renovation, collection materials and furniture on the first floor of Bostock Library are being relocated to other library locations over the summer. The Libraries will free up additional study space elsewhere in Perkins and Bostock to accommodate students temporarily displaced by the work.

Plans are under way to mark the completion of the Research Commons with a grand opening event in January 2015—just in time to kick off another innovative year at Duke.

Rendering of a planned social lounge space in the Research Commons.
Rendering of a planned social lounge space in the Research Commons.



Research Commons Essentials

Bostock Library
Bostock Library

The first floor of Bostock will be renovated during Summer and Fall 2014, to create a physical space in the center of campus that invites discovery, experimenting and collaboration. Here’s what you’ll find in the Research Commons:

  • Brandaleone Data and GIS Services Lab (relocated from second floor of Perkins Library)
  • Workshop and presentation space, for groups small (6-8) and large (up to 45-50)
  • Project rooms, multiple sizes, both reservable and drop-in
  • Library personnel, available on site and by appointment for consulting and assistance

The Research Commons connects library users with specialists and puts them in touch with other potential research partners at Duke. Students and faculty can get expert advice on:

  • Planning and managing the research process, from idea to publication
  • Analyzing and visualizing research data, from graphs to maps and timelines
  • Sharing research with others, through presentations, publications and archives

Library users can get help with the research process, from looking for new project ideas, to collecting or creating research data, to creating public presentations of works in progress. And we’ll offer tools and resources for making the most of research data, including:

  • Scanners (large-format, overhead, and multi-sheet feed)
  • Data analytics  (statistics, mapping, and visualization)
  • Training (workshops on research methods and tools)



Research Commons Timeline

Faculty Planning Process

May 2014
Library collections, furniture, and equipment move from the first floor of Bostock to other locations
Bostock first floor closes

June 2014
Construction begins on the Research Commons

Summer 2014
Collections move in several locations in Perkins Library to free up additional study space

November 2014 to December 2014
Construction complete, the Research Commons opens for use

January 2015
Grand opening event