North Carolina State University
SACS Compliance Certification
August 15, 2003

Comprehensive Standards: Educational Programs 3.8.1 (appropriate facilities and IT resources)
The institution provides facilities, services, and other learning/information resources that are appropriate to support its teaching, research, and service mission.

Compliance
North Carolina State University is in compliance with this standard. 

Explanation
Because the requirements and standards related to library and other learning/information resources overlap, each compliance report addresses a different dimension, as follows: 
  • Core Requirement #9 addresses access and collections provided by the NCSU Libraries and other units

The present report will address physical facilities and information technology resources provided by the NCSU Libraries, the overall computing environment, instructional facilities, and research facilities.   

The NCSU Libraries
The NCSU Libraries consists of D. H. Hill Library and four branch libraries serving the colleges of Design, Natural Resources, Textiles, and Veterinary Medicine.  A virtual tour is available on the Web.  Affiliated libraries include the African-American Cultural Center Reading Room, and the Learning Resources Library in the College of Education and the Department of Psychology. 

Physical Facilities in the Libraries

Together, D. H. Hill and the branch libraries currently provide 434,000 gross square feet of space.  Facilities studies conducted during the 1990s indicated that this was not enough space to serve the university community well.  Of particular concern was space for collections, student seating, and staff work areas. 

In response, the Libraries has completed several projects designed to alleviate space pressure in the near term; their success is evident in the results of student surveys indicating a high level of satisfaction with access to the Libraries’ databases and collections, suggesting that lack of physical space has not hindered their access to information.  For a permanent solution, the Libraries has developed a master plan and funding strategy for adding new space.  In addition, several projects were completed recently to alleviate space deficiencies.  These include:

  • Renovation of a warehouse on campus to serve as a satellite shelving facility
  • Renovation of the second floor of D. H. Hill’s East Wing to provide space for the Learning and Research Center for the Digital Age (LRCDA)
  • Addition of a stairwell and elevator to address egress deficiencies in D. H. Hill’s East Wing
  • Renovation of selected staff areas on the ground floor of D. H. Hill’s East Wing (Phase I)

While no substitute for expanding its physical facilities, the Libraries does provide remote access to library resources, thereby easing some of the pressure created by space shortcomings:

  • Document delivery to the desktop or office through TRIPsaver

In 2001, the university received $468 million from a UNC bond referendum to implement Phase I of a ten-year capital plan, including renovations and new construction.  From this, the Libraries received $9.2 million for renovations and replacement of building systems.  The UNC system is planning a second bond referendum support of Phase II of the capital plan, which is expected to add up to 250,000 assignable square feet to address remaining deficiencies, provide facilities on Centennial Campus, and allow for enrollment growth.  (Resources #7 provides more details about the ten-year capital plan and bond referendum).

To guide development of the university’s capital improvements plan, the Libraries developed a new master plan in 2001-02.  This plan was used to identify the highest priority needs and to stage capital improvements over the ten-year capital planning period and bond referenda.

Technology in the Libraries
The Learning and Research Center for the Digital Age (LRCDA) opened in spring 2003 on the second floor of D. H. Hill’s East Wing.  The LRCDA offers workshops, consultation, and technology-related services directly to faculty and students.  Included are the following specialized technology facilities.

  • Information Technologies Teaching Center, which consists of three teaching labs where the Libraries, LTS, and Computing Services offer hands-on instruction in the latest software, hardware, and communications technologies
  • Digital Media Laboratory, which provides equipment, software, and assistance for creating digital materials and converting all types of media to digital formats 
  • Usability Research Laboratory, which offers state-of-the-art equipment capable of collecting video, audio, and computer data from the user in real time for observation and analysis
  • Multimedia Seminar Center, which is a presentation and seminar facility with videoconferencing and projection capabilities
  • Assembly Room, which provides conference and presentation space for groups using any of the other facilities in the LRCDA

Outside of the LRCDA, the Assistive Technologies Center provides state-of-the-art equipment and software for library users with impaired vision, mobility, or hearing.  Videotapes, films, CDs, and other materials are available at the Media Center, which also provides audiovisual equipment.

With respect to information technologies, the Libraries takes a user-focused approach in making changes to its Web interface, including homepage and catalog interface.  In early spring 2003, the Libraries began upgrading its integrated library system software from DRA to Sirsi Unicorn.  The upgraded system will provide greater functionality for faculty, students, and library staff.  The Libraries uses BlueAngel’s MetaStar Enterprise software to facilitate cross-database searching.  The software is also being used to integrate data sources in new ways, giving users a more coherent view of their options.

The NCSU Libraries provides laptop computers for in-building use by students, faculty, and staff of NC State University and individuals who have a valid NCSU Libraries borrowing card.  The laptops include Macintosh laptops and Dell laptops running either Windows 2000 or Linux OS.  Laptops are available for loan at the main library and the four branch libraries. The laptops may be connected to the Internet throughout the buildings.  Moreover, wireless networking is available in several areas of the main library. Personal laptops equipped with an IEEE 802.11-compliant wireless Ethernet card may be used, as well as library laptops. The Libraries lends wireless network cards for use within the building.

Information Technology Resources
This section focuses on NC State University’s IT resources—infrastructure and systems—and their support of its teaching, research, and service mission.  The university employs a decentralized and distributed IT organization to provide services.  This approach enables the central academic and administrative IT units to provide sophisticated systems and services for all colleges.  In addition, each college maintains its own IT support unit to provide additional resources to meet its specific needs.

Distributed Computing Environments
NC State University has both academic and administrative computing environments.  Central IT units include the Information Technology Division (ITD), the Distance Education and Learning Technology Applications division, and Resource Management and Information Services.

The Information Technology Division (ITD), under the Office of the Provost, provides leadership and support for the university’s academic computing and networking resources.  To anticipate and prepare for rapidly advancing technology, ITD employs non line-management subject matter experts responsible for forecasting needs and reengineering processes. Recent accomplishments include the regional North Carolina Networking Initiative (NCNI) upgrade and the high performance computing (HPC) development.  Otherwise, the unit has responsibilities in three broad categories:

  • Academic computing support services, such as technology user support, campus helpdesk services, consulting, training, services in support of college technical staff
  • Large-scale, commodity production IT services, including the campus data network infrastructure, operational support for academic and administrative servers and mainframe computers, campus web and e-mail services and Unity, the campus-wide academic computing environment
  • Applied research and development of high-end production services, to implement information technologies required to advance the university’s research, teaching, and outreach missions

The Distance Education and Learning Technology Applications (DELTA) division, also under the Office of the Provost, provides leadership and support for the university’s distance education activities, and it provides support for faculty in their use of technology for teaching, for research and for service.

Resource Management and Information Services (RMIS), in the Office of Finance and Business, develops and manages the administrative computing environment.  RMIS supports administrative data and processes including admissions, student records and research administration.

Unity, the campus-wide multi-platform (Windows, Unix, Linux and Macintosh) academic computing environment, is supported by ITD.  All NC State University faculty, staff and students automatically receive a computing account, with Unity privileges at a minimum.  Unity computing accounts include e-mail services, an allocation of personal file space (currently 50 MB plus 30 MB of IMAP e-mail quota), support for personal web pages and access to approximately 550 Unity software applications (Unity/Unix, 350 applications; Unity/Windows and Macintosh ~100 each). The software ranges from screen readers and other assistive technologies to web-authoring tools (a complete list of software applications is available on the Web).  As of April 2003, there were almost 52,000 active Unity accounts (students, faculty, full-time and part-time staff combined). 

Decentralized organization requires on-going communication among the IT units to maintain a computing environment that is cost effective, flexible, and capable of meeting the changing needs of NC State University’s programs.  Several committees coordinate activities and advise the chancellor and provost on IT issues.

Data Network Infrastructure
The campus high-capacity fiber optic network backbone consists of a multi-link Gigabit Ethernet (GE) mesh among five main distribution facilities with a high percentage of the building uplinks dual homed.  The NC State University main campus, the College of Veterinary Medicine campus, Centennial Campus and 95% of campus buildings (170) have fiber optic connections to the network backbone via switches using resilient 2xGigE links.

All 34 campus residential halls, fraternity and sorority houses have port/pillow switched Ethernet connections.  Network availability (backbone uptime) averages 0.9986 percent; the average peak monthly Internet load is 331 Mbps.  NC State University is a charter university participant in Internet2 and home of one of two national Internet2 Test and Evaluation Centers.

In addition to Internet access, the campus backbone connects to the North Carolina Research and Education Network and to the regional NCNI backbone at two locations. The NCNI backbone is being upgraded to a Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) fiber optic backbone with multi-10GE links, and is scheduled to become a core node on the new National LightRail research network. This will provide NC State University and other regional research universities with access to capacities exceeding those of Internet2.

High Performance and Research Computing
In response to the closure in May 2003 of the North Carolina Supercomputing Center, NC State University began cooperating with Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill, and the UNC Office of the President to build on-campus HPC resources, develop the regional networking infrastructure necessary to participate in national HPC and grid initiatives, and provide NC State University researchers with access to national supercomputing centers. The HPC@NC State program was initiated in July 2003 with the installation of a p690 computer to serve the high-end computing needs of research programs ranging from astrophysics to particle hemodynamics. Additional resources will be installed in the near future.

Mobile Computing and the Wireless Network Environment
The NC State University nomadic wireless system, which utilizes strong authentication protection, is in the process of being built out campus wide according to a “students’ first” plan. The university currently uses the 802.11b standard, also known as "Wi-Fi", for its wireless computing environment. The wireless infrastructure is based on the university’s nomadic computing system (VLAN), which currently has over 800 ports where users can plug in laptops, receive dynamic IP addresses using DHCP and authenticate to the campus network.

Computing Laboratories
Overall, high-speed Internet access is available to students from more than 2500 workstations in 79 computing labs on campus.  ITD supports eight Unity computing labs (over 300 workstations), which are open to students of all colleges.  Unity labs are equipped with a mixture of Windows, Unix, and Macintosh workstations, all of which provide direct access to file space, software and other resources of the Unity computing environment.  Most workstations (~1800) in college-supported labs also use basic Unity desktop environments, modified to meet the particular needs of the college’s curricula.  All Unity labs and most college labs are equipped with assistive technology (hardware and software) to provide equitable access to technology resources for students with disabilities.

Web Servers and Services
ITD’s web services group supports more than 250,000 of the university’s web pages.  They provide course material on the Web as well as information and services for campus and global audiences.  Supported sites include http://www.ncsu.edu/, courses.ncsu.edu, webassign.ncsu.edu, wolfware.ncsu.edu, search.ncsu.edu and virtual hosting services for the sites of most colleges.  The ITD-supported web systems use e-commerce quality Sun Ultra and Netra-class computers, 100Mb Ethernet connectivity, and the university’s network-based AFS file system. The reliability and performance of the ITD servers consistently rank above industry standards (as measured by Keynote).  ITD also supports student, faculty and staff personal pages on the www4.ncsu.edu server.  Overall, ITD supports 1.8 terabytes of data on university AFS file space (roughly equivalent to 220,000 300-page digital books).  Other campus organizations support their own web servers.  For example, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension—one of the university’s major extension and engagement services—houses 12 gigabytes of data and in 2002 averaged 15,000 visits to the site each day.

E-mail Services
Both academic and administrative IT units support e-mail services at the university.  All students, faculty and staff automatically receive Unity e-mail accounts with 30 MB of file quota.  In May 2003, IMAP e-mail resources were expanded to accommodate 1.4 terabytes of data.  In an average month ITD e-mail servers deliver more than 13,000,000 messages.  ITD also supports e-mail list services for faculty, staff and university organizations; the Wolfware course management system provides additional e-mail list services so that faculty can conveniently set up mailing lists for their courses.

Technology-enhanced Teaching Facilities
The university maintains 12 teleclassrooms and videoconference rooms on the NC State University campus that are connected to NC-REN and other NC State University video facilities via the university campus fiber network   Additional teleclassrooms will be built with funding from the 2001 bond referendum. 

A media production facility provides course master tape inventory control, quality control, and duplication services for distance education course materials.

Support for Distance Education
Students enrolled in distance education programs receive full access to the university’s library and learning resources.  Like their on-campus peers, they receive a Unity account that provides an email account, access to web-based course management systems, and full access to electronic information and databases. 

Assistance with computer configurations, software interfaces, and technology problems is provided through NC State’s Computing Services Help Desk. The NCSU Libraries’ Distance Learning Services department provides access to library databases, electronic journals and articles, electronic reserves, reference services, a virtual library of full-text books, cooperative borrowing privileges across the UNC system, and rapid delivery of library materials to the student’s home or office.

The NCSU Bookstores and the DELTA Media Distribution Center lend materials by the semester to students who are taking courses via video or CD-ROM.

References


N.C. State University
Last Modified: Wednesday, 11-Mar-09 15:03:01