FAQ – Digital Scholarship Lab


Frequently Asked Questions

The Digital Scholarship Lab at MSU Library features cutting-edge technologies that may be new to many scholars, faculty, researchers, and librarians. It also features infrastructure and support for more known digital practices like scanning/digitizing, text mining, and data management.

If you are wondering how you might use the lab, this FAQ will briefly answer some of our most popular questions.

On this page:

Who can use the lab?

The Lab space is open to any MSU campus community member, as well as community visitors. Computers in the space require an MSU campus login, but everyone from students to faculty to visiting researchers are encouraged to visit and use the Lab.

Some examples of Digital Scholarship work happening day-to-day might include:

  • An undergraduate student uses the high-performance computers to access graphic modeling software that’s normally only available on dedicated machines from 9 to 5.
  • A faculty member who is developing an environmental justice video game can use software in the high-performance space to make the actual code for the game, and then preview the work in progress using either VR headsets or in The 360. What formerly had to be done across multiple spaces or inefficiently on her personal machine, can be accomplished in one space, much more efficiently.
  • A graduate student doing genealogical research on a huge dataset meets with the Data Librarian to get help creating a digital model of their network they can navigate, using software like Cytoscape. After a few meetings, and some training by the Data Librarian, the student creates their own network. This network can ultimately be displayed and navigated through using the 360 visualization space. Having transformed their dataset from a non-visually meaningful database, the graduate student how has a rich, navigable environment with visually observable connections.
  • A subject specialist Librarian and faculty member work with a Digital Scholarship Librarian to develop a well-defined digital project for students to do as an end of semester assignment option, using Library Repository materials as the primary content.

Can I reserve the spaces?

Yes! The Digital Scholarship Lab offers a variety of reservable spaces, including 3 group meeting rooms outfitted with digital displays for collaborative work. See our reservations page for more details.

To reserve spaces like the 360, the Virtual Reality room, the computing workshop space, or the Digitization Room, get in touch with us at DSLab@msu.edu. When not reserved, these spaces are open for use.

Please note: because of the complicated and complex nature of these technologies, spaces like the 360 and the Digitization Room require a check-in in with the Lab Desk to access. We do have drop-in VR hours on a limited basis; check the hours before coming in or make an appointment by emailing the lab.

How can I learn more about these new technologies?

The MSU Digital Scholarship team offers a variety of ways to learn about the technologies in the lab! During the semester, we offer a variety of workshops, often in conjunction with campus partners such as DH@MSU, the Hub, the MSU Museum, and more.

You can check our workshop and event schedule on the MSU Libraries main site (our events tend to be categorized under Digital Scholarship, Digital Humanities, or Gaming). If you'd like to talk to us about collaborating on a workshop or suggest a topic, please email us at DSLab@msu.edu - we'd love to talk with you about the possibilities!

Folks interested in more one-on-one mentoring and training can work with the Digital Scholarship Librarians to identify and develop specific skills. We can also connect you with library, faculty, or campus partners to engage. We have a consultation request form that will help us match you up with the best librarian to assist you - if you fill it out, we will get back to you within 2 business days to get started!

I already have a digital scholarship project started. How can the lab help me?

Our mission at the Digital Scholarship Lab is to support projects in all stages of development. We can also help you conceptualize where your current project fits in the Digital Scholarship landscape as a whole, and provide advice on the publication and preservation of your work.

I’m brand new to digital scholarship and I'm interested in integrating it into my coursework or research. I'm not sure how to start; how can the lab help me?

Fantastic! This is a great time to contact us for a consultation. We would love to talk about your hopes and aspirations for your research or coursework, and help you figure out what tools or methodologies might be most appropriate for you.

I have a great idea for a new digital project but don’t know where to get started.

In addition to being a workspace, the Digital Scholarship Lab is also an incubator for nascent ideas. The easiest way to get started is to make an appointment with one of our Digital Scholarship Librarians to get you started.

Now that I've started my digital scholarship project, what steps should I take to preserve it?

In planning to preserve a digital scholarship project, it's helpful to think about the following:

  1. What do you want to preserve? Think about the content, data, aesthetics, code, or other components of the project and how you want them to live on.
  2. How would you like to share the project, or parts of it, with the public?  Determine if you want to create a website or another public-facing product, or how you want to publish your work.
  3. How long do you want the project to be accessible to the public? You will need a different plan to keep a project active for 5, 10, or 100 years.
  4. What happens if a major contributor or funding source isn't able to continue with the project? Make a contingency plan for the project's labor, funding, and data.
  5. What are your metadata requirements? Consider format, file type, and kinds of information you need.

Things to do for all project types:

  1. Gather relevant logins, passwords, and URLs
  2. Create shared file-naming conventions for your team
  3. Make notes on your process
  4. Make a backup plan and regularly back up
  5. Let users know when the project is finished and no longer being actively developed

Things to do for web projects:

  1. Run each page of your site through the Internet Archive
  2. Screencast a walk-through of your website
  3. If you have a WordPress website, convert it to a flat-file site
  4. Crosslink the different portions of the project, so that users can find all the parts
  5. Identify components of the project that can be separately exported or downloaded

For assistance developing a specific plan for your project, please reach out to us at DSLab@msu.edu - we'd love to talk early and often!

This FAQ is a changing document that represents our best answers to these common questions as of Spring 2020. We know and expect some of this information to change.