The University of Washington’s Health Sciences Library seeks to advance healthcare through research, education, and access to information resources. It supports its school community, but also the interests of professional health researchers. So when the University of Washington’s Health Sciences Library decided to add a new space on campus to enhance research data analysis and allow multidisciplinary collaboration, administrators wanted something more than just another conference room.
In light of this mission, the library formed a partnership with other health organizations in the summer of 2015 to create and fund a space on campus that would accelerate health research and allow a multifaceted approach to research.
“Transforming learning spaces and medical libraries for the researchers and investigators working in a university in 2025 is going to require bonafide [interactive] spaces … that have been tested for proof of concept, [as well as] not remaining constrained, even trapped, by the need to stay close to our traditional approaches in research universities,” says Tania Bardyn, associate dean, and director of the Health Sciences Library.
University of Washington’s Health Sciences Library Project Goals
There were two main requirements for the collaboration space. The campus is large, with researchers located on both the north and south sides, so the space had to be centrally located. The Health Sciences Library was a good fit location-wise, and had another attractive feature: a larger budget than some of the other departments on campus, according to Emily Patridge, assistant director of clinical research and data services at the University of Washington.
“The researchers don’t have a lot of space – some of them are lucky to even have their own desks – so this was an opportunity to come to a shared location, use equipment their departments might not be able to fund, and do multidisciplinary collaboration,” she says.
This meant the space required the latest technology, and the Institute of Translational Health Sciences specifically requested using digital signage to support the researchers.
“We realized we didn’t want just another conference room or another space to teach,” Patridge said. “We wanted [the space] to have a unique signature, so we could provide something new on campus that a lot of people aren’t offering.”
To design the Translational Research and Information Lab (TRAIL) space and install the digital signage, the Health Sciences Library engaged Diversified, an AV integration firm. Diversified had previously worked with the university’s school of medicine, which referred the integrator to the library.
“[The library] wanted it to be a high-impact space – a multipurpose collaboration and [data] visualization room that people from various departments could use,” says Laurie Simon, sales account executive for Diversified.
Inside Diversified’s Solution at the Health Sciences Library
The chosen space was originally a staff office area that would be redesigned. During initial redesign planning, the library conferred with Diversified on the technology that would best suit its needs, as well as add something distinctive to the campus.
“We talked about options like projectors, or a single large display, but it was really important to the library to have the flexibility to send video and data from multiple sources to individual displays or to a whole display [setup],” says Dean Roberts, systems integration manager for Diversified.
After conferring with Diversified, the library settled on a 2×3 video wall comprised of 55-inch displays, which would help health sciences clinical researchers analyze and visualize data, and give researchers the ability to send six different sources from various devices to any or all of the displays.
“When you’re collecting large data sets [to] have as many subjects and data sets as possible, as a lot of health science researchers do, it’s helpful to have multiple screens to visualize and look at the data,” says Sally Pine, special project librarian for the Health Sciences Library at the University of Washington. “Spreadsheets only go so far, and having large-capacity screens to do analysis, or produce charts, graphs or 3-D models is very helpful.”
Bardyn added that the changing needs of researchers in the digital age – including research data management, survey creation support, librarian consultations, data visualization space, bibliometrics, team science and more – made a video wall the best solution.
“[TRAIL] leadership recognized the need to merge services and workflows and create spaces that housed … fully immersive visual environments for joint groups or teams of investigators to view data,” she says.
“I don’t usually see something this elaborate, between the flooring, neat furniture and video wall,” Simon says. “I think it’s a pretty unique space.”
After the library chose a video wall, Diversified helped project admins select a manufacturer that would supply displays for the wall, and recommended NEC Display Solutions.
With the video wall solution in place, Diversified got to work retrofitting the space. The room has both internal windows that face into the library and windows to the outdoors, which meant that the room had some ambient light. The lighting in the room was one reason Diversified steered the library away from a projector, Simon says.
“[Display] panels will give brighter and more vivid images than a projector would because the room’s ambient light in the path of the projector would cause washout,” she said.“NEC offers a solid video wall solution,” says Roberts. “It’s a good, known product that compares well with anything on the market, price-wise.”
The TRAIL incubator space offers comfortable seating on two colorful, modular sofas; a table with a whiteboard surface; and two smaller wall-mounted whiteboards. The flooring is hardwood-style acoustic tiling to absorb sound. The main focus is the six-panel video wall. Users can bring their own devices or use the university’s computer tower for data visualization projects, 3-D imaging and presentations.
Diversified’s Project Impact on the University of Washington
It’s not your typical higher-ed research conference area, she adds. Patridge said the response from researchers and users has been very positive.“The university did a nice job with the furnishings in this space,” Simon says. “The AV package and furnishings together are really beautiful.”
“People have been very pleased,” she says. “They say it’s a relaxing and inviting space, and they’ve really enjoyed having the data wall – being able to see what everyone is seeing, and using it to visualize data.”
Bardyn added that the transformation of the former office space into the TRAIL Incubator Space is analogous to the transformation that is occurring in the health sciences research space.
“We must show that we can turn separate workflows to support health sciences researchers and clinical investigators – formerly discrete audiences – into a mass of productive regional clinical investigators working with real-time data flow on a video wall … to solve population health problems,” she says. “[We must demonstrate that this] transformed approach to technology and information services could be equally reliable and valid to the approach we desire to retire.”
Patridge added that the video wall has sparked interest across the University of Washington.