Faculty Research Commons

Planning Process (now superseded by the Master Plan)

Planning: January – March 2019; Piloting: April 2019 – 2020

In 2019, the University of Miami engaged brightspot strategy to facilitate the creation of a future vision, service strategy, and space plan for a Faculty Research Commons to be located on the third floor of Richter Library.

Project Objectives

The objective for this project is to create a service and space strategy for the Research Commons that

  • Strategically engages with faculty to better understand their research needs
  • Establishes a plan to support faculty in their research and to facilitate interdisciplinary research communities, including the U-Link program
  • Designs an inviting hub within the library for faculty connection and collaboration
  • Determines which programs and services the Research Commons will offer and confirms how they will be delivered
  • Determines the Common’s space program and its blocking and stacking so that University of Miami (UM) can develop a renovation budget and begin its design phase next year

Project Assumptions

  • UML has conducted user research on the faculty’s research needs. Results from an Ithaka SK+R faculty survey will be available in December. The research phase of this project should utilize and build upon UML’s work to date.
  • UML currently provides space and services on the third floor of Richter Library that support faculty. These spaces include liaison librarian offices, digital scholarship offices, and Faculty Exploratory, all of which should be considered part of the Research Commons.
  • The Faculty Reading Room on Richter’s second floor will also be repurposed and integrated into the Research Commons.
  • The Center for the Humanities, currently on Richter’s first floor, will most likely be relocated into the Research Commons as a key partner. Additional potential partners may be identified through this engagement.
  • The Faculty Research Commons will serve as the inaugural home for U-LINK, UM’s interdisciplinary grant program for tackling societal problems. UML has already provided spaces and services to support this initiative and will incorporate this work into the new Research Commons.
  • While definitively located on the third floor of Richter, the Faculty Research Commons’ exact size and placement will be determined by this strategic process.

Project Approach and Scope

The planning process will occur over a period of eleven weeks from January – March 2019. The process will be participatory in nature and decided to facilitate change management by building consensus throughout the project. The process will include a Working Committee, Project Team, and a Faculty Advisory Committee.


  1. Groundwork and Project Management
  2. User Research and Visioning
    • Review of findings of completed Ithaka SK+R survey
    • Faculty Advisory Committee workshop
    • Interviews with faculty, leadership, and partners
    • Review of current trends
  3. Service Strategy
  4. Space Strategy
  5. Reporting: Final Report with Executive Summary

This process will build on brightspot’s knowledge of the University and Richter Library resulting from previous work for UML on the integrated planning of spaces and services at the Learning Commons. The team brings to this project their extensive experience in partnering with academic libraries to rethink their research programs and spaces, including projects at University of Pittsburgh and Georgia Institute of Technology.

brightspot strategy: Elliot Felix (founder), Adam Griff (director), Coby Lerner (senior strategist), and Maggie Williams (strategist)

Piloting (2019 – 2020)

Thanks to the guidance provided in the final report, the University of Miami Libraries has been experimenting with the following pilots of different services and space types. This work will continue until the project is funded for design and renovation.

Service Pilots:

  • U-LINK Librarian Program 
    In partnership with UResearch, librarians have been participating as team members on U-LINK projects designed to solve pressing societal problems.
  • Research Sprints for U-LINK 
    In partnership with UResearch, the UM Libraries are piloting a service called “Research Sprints” to support U-LINK teams facing specific obstacles or challenges in their research process.

Space Type Pilots:

  • Faculty Exploratory, Richter Library, 3rd Floor 
    This space received technology upgrades and new furniture in the summer of 2019 thanks to funding provided by the Office of Research and Academic Technologies. It offers U-LINK teams and other faculty members a neutral location for team meetings and collaboration, as well as a One-Button Studio for creating and recording presentations and lectures. Additional U-LINK team meeting rooms were identified at Calder Library and the Rosenstiel Library, in order to provide touchdown spaces for U-LINK teams on all three campuses.
  • Faculty Reading Room, Richter Library, 3rd Floor
    This room combines technology work stations for faculty to work individually or in small groups and includes a coffee and tea station. This room includes elements of brightspot’s recommendations for the following space types: “Traditional Meeting Room” and “Cafe,” described on pp. 30 and 32 in the final report.
  • Magic Leap Lab, Richter Library, 3rd Floor  (2019-2020)
    This lab was a collaboration with the Provost’s Office, the company Magic Leap, and the Libraries’ Creative Studio for experimentation with spatial computing in learning, teaching, and research. This lab contained elements of the “Tech Sandbox” space type described on p. 34 of the brightspot report.
  • XR Community Lab, Richter Library, 3rd Floor
    This lab is managed by the Libraries’ Creative Studio in collaboration with the University of Miami’s XR Initiative. This lab provides elements of the “Tech Sandbox” space type described on p. 34 of the brightspot report.

Note: In 2022, the University of Miami Libraries completed a Master Plan with Shepley Bulfinch. The Master Plan has taken into account the 2019 brightspot Faculty Research Commons report, lessons learned during the pandemic period, and current needs of researchers. A revised vision has emerged to develop a “Research and Creativity Commons” on the second floor of Richter Library. Please see p. 36 of the Master Plan document cited above.


Ask bubble