You are here

Microsoft Surface Tables Installed, Tested in Three Harvard Libraries

Undergrads testing custom software.


December 4, 2012—Microsoft Surface tables—imagine large tablet computers on table legs—were installed in Lamont, Cabot and Wolbach Libraries to explore their application to research, teaching and learning.


The project, spearheaded by Christopher Erdmann of Wolbach Library, is focused on designing and testing Library Explorer, software developed at Brown University that allows users to view items from Harvard Library collections at very high resolutions and annotate them using “hot spot” and “snapshot” functionalities. Approximately 60 Harvard undergraduates, under the guidance of Dr. Rong Tang of the Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science, were involved in testing for ease of use and applicability of the software to research.


“The general feedback from students has been positive,” said Erdmann. “During one test, a student commented that he hadn’t known some of the items he saw on the screen were even in Harvard’s collections. The student was then directed to a display case directly behind him which included the original item.” Erdmann first proposed installing the Surface tables to “provide a digital space for serendipitous discovery.”


Susan Berstler of Cabot Library added, “One of the goals of the project is to be able to use the tables to complement teaching curriculums with high-resolution, close-up images of research materials from the Harvard Library collections and elsewhere.”


Other software undergoing testing includes NUIverse, which provides an interactive view of the solar system and surrounding constellations through time, and IntuiFace Presentation, which was employed on a Surface table to curate a digital exhibit using materials from Lamont and Houghton.


In the near future, the project team will bring together librarians and vendors that develop interactive display software to explore collaborations on projects useful for the library community.


The Surface table project is supported by the Office for Scholarly Communication Library Lab and the Harvard Library. Erdmann manages the table at Wolbach Library; Michael Leach manages the one at Cabot Library and Paul Worster oversees Lamont Library’s table.


Experience a Microsoft Surface table in Cabot Library from 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday, and in Lamont Library during all open hours.


View photos of the surface table in Cabot Library here.