BCPL, OIT work together to provide more for less
Wednesday, 05 February 2014 15:47

High-speed Internet coming to local libraries

by Nicole Rodman

    With the rise of the digital age, modern libraries have had to adapt to the times.
    Far from being the dusty book repositories of yesteryear, today’s libraries boast a variety of technologically-advanced offerings for patrons.
    In 2012, the Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL) served 5.5 million  customers at 19 branches and four bookmobiles across the county.
    Nearly as many patrons  — 5 million — accessed library services through the BCPL website.
    While most of the materials borrowed by patrons — 10.7 million pieces — were physical media (books, movies, CDs), the library system also lent out 226,000 electronic books in 2012.
    In addition, more than one million patrons took advantage of computer and Internet access at libraries across the county.
    With such a large volume of users taking advantage of local libraries, BCPL is seeking ways to offer more services for less money.
    One way BCPL is doing this is by working with other county agencies.
    Last November, BCPL director Jim Fish and Baltimore County Public Schools superintendent Dr. S. Dallas Dance announced a partnership between county libraries and schools, dubbed SAIL (Students Achieve In Libraries).
    Now, BCPL is partnering with the Baltimore County Office of Information Technology (OIT).
    According to Fish, there are many benefits to partnering with OIT.

For BCPL, the partnership will mean greater technological capabilities for both staff and patrons.
    In the coming months, OIT will begin installing a high-speed broadband fiber-optic network (BCON) at a number of county buildings, including local libraries.
    While BCON will initially be installed at the BCPL headquarters and at 10 branches, eventually every branch in the system will have access to reliable, high-speed internet.
    “The big thing is speed and capacity,” Fish said.
    In addition to offering greater technology to library patrons, the partnership between BCPL and OIT will also save taxpayers money.
    As Fish explained, BCPL and OIT are “looking at sharing equipment” in an effort to provide services at a lower cost.
    For BCPL, sharing equipment and software with OIT also provides top-of-the-line technology to the library system for less money.
    For example, by sharing a recovery backup system with OIT, BCPL has access to a much stronger system than it could afford on its own.
    In order to identify ways in which the two departments can work together to save money, Fish and OIT director Rob Stradling worked together with an outside organization to conduct a Business Process Analysis (BPA).
    According to Fish, having an outside perspective in the process was invaluable because “they’re objective about things.”
    As Stradling noted in a post on the Baltimore County Now Blog, “The BPA identified several major areas in which BCPL and the Office of Information Technology (OIT) were duplicating efforts, resources and contracts.”
    “Consolidation in these areas will save significant taxpayer dollars — more than $143,000 annually,” Stradling added.
    By the end of fiscal year 2015, Stradling explained, the partnership between BCPL and OIT will save the library almost $500,000.
    According to Fish, BCPL and OIT will continue to work together to find ways to save money and bring greater services to county residents.
    This may include more equipment sharing and even mutual staff training.
    “We’ll continue to talk and see whch ways we’ll work together,” Fish said.
    For more information, visit the Baltimore County Now Blog at www.