New Digital Lab enhances Heard Libraries’ resources for teaching and learning

The Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries have strengthened their resources for teaching and learning with the recent launch of the Digital Lab, an initiative that equips Vanderbilt University faculty, students and staff to create, develop and sustain digital projects. The new Digital Lab combines three library departments—Digital Scholarship and Communications, the Digital Commons, and the Digital Humanities Center—into one overarching unit, realizing efficiencies that advance the Heard Libraries’ goal of facilitating transdisciplinary research and teaching through cohesive services.

“The Digital Lab positions the libraries as an essential partner on campus,” said University Librarian Jon Shaw. “Housing Vanderbilt’s digital projects under one umbrella enables us to take better advantage of the synergies that exist between them while also increasing opportunities for collaborative scholarship among faculty, students and staff.”

Led by Senior Director Andrew Wesolek, the Digital Lab supports several existing digital projects, such as the Slave Societies Digital Archive and The Syriac Reference Portal, but also works to identify and cultivate emergent projects and partners. The Lab incubates these nascent projects, connecting them with local experts, finding funding opportunities, and anchoring them within the university’s broader initiatives, including Discovery Vanderbilt.

“One impetus for the creation of the Digital Lab was removing the structural and technological barriers that can hinder projects,” Wesolek said. “By integrating resources and adopting a more streamlined approach, we’re able to provide better infrastructure for our campus partners and more accurately scale engagement.”

In addition to supporting digital projects, the Digital Lab offers technology-rich discovery spaces for experiential learning, such as Peabody Library’s new GIS Lab, which features state-of-the-art computers and software for geospatial visualization and analysis. One of the key functions of these spaces is to provide training pipelines for students to contribute to faculty-led projects.

“The Digital Lab spaces immerse students in the direct application of advanced technologies and research methods,” said Melissa Mallon, associate university librarian for teaching and learning. “The opportunity to learn outside the classroom is invaluable for students as they not only contribute in meaningful ways to faculty research but also accrue important life skills that prepare them for success beyond Vanderbilt.”

Learn more about upcoming Digital Lab events, including workshops planned for the fall semester.

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