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Planning technology for the next 30 years

Submitted by Jason Griffey on June 23, 2009 - 9:30am

I don't often post specifically about things I'm involved in at my real job (Head of Library IT at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga), and try instead to examine general technology useful to libraries of all types. But this month, I'd like to talk about something that I've been involved in for almost 2 years that has recently come to a head (especially as it concernstechnology). I've spent the better part of the last month hip-deep in planning the technology for UTC's brand new academic library.

We had some scares over the last couple of week regarding the funding for the new library, but it's officially part of the budget now. We've locked down the floorplans, are about to lock down the exterior look of the building, and I'm working on pulling together the technology infrastructure plan. This new building is being designed to have a lifetime of 30 years, so some of the decisions we're making will resonate for decades, in the same way that decisions made over 30 years ago are still affecting us in our current building. So how do you plan for technology 30 years out? What are we trying to do with the technology for the new building, both for the infrastructure and the front-line tech? Over the next year, I'm going to try and cover at least some of the decisions we've made about the technology in the new building.
We decided very early on in the process that we believed that technology use in the library is never going to lessen in importance. We are going to try and embed technology in as transparent a way as possible for the end user, with the exception of a few showpiece objects. However, as many of you know, transparent for the end user is far, far from transparent for the library staff.
One of the challenging parts of the planning is that because of the rules on spending the capital funds set aside by the State, none of the building budget can actually be spent on PCs or other non-infrastructure technology. We are going to have to find another funding source for computers, but we are trying to ensure that the infrastructure that we can spend money on is top tier.
We are currently planning on having about 2000 Cat-6 ethernet jacks in the building, in addition to wireless coverage on all 5 floors extending outside the building onto the patio and seating areas. The network is being designed to be redundant to failure of individual hubs, as well as to limit any double failures to only half of any floor in question. More fail-safes are being added on floors with the heaviest patron usage.
We are planning gigabit connections throughout the building, with the potential to run fiber in the future if it becomes needed. In addition to the pipes that we need to be able to do really anything in the building, there are a ton of pieces that we still have to plan for. Signage systems, webservers, fileservers, RAID systems, cameras, card swipes for doors...just a ton of technology.
What technology do YOU wish had been planned for when your library was built?

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Comments (6)

I agree, power is a main

I agree, power is a main consideration.

Avoid building on a concrete slab foundation, consider subflooring for running whatever power will be available 30 yrs from today.

It is tough to plan more than ten years out given current rates of change and funding in LibraryLand. Good luck!

My first thought was also

My first thought was also more power outlets, charging stations and lots of outlets. I was also thinking of furniture that could easily be rearranged to suit multiple purposes or even have the ability to make a presto group room. I would also like to see some sort of technology where people could make noise but that noise would be dampened. Kind of a star trek dampening noise field. It would also be cool to have more computers to interact with throughout the library. So in addition to computers with the catalog, these info stations could be located at the end of each isle so that users could not only do searches but also get lots of information via the web and other sources on the items on those shelves.

Yes, my first thought was

Yes, my first thought was "bring in lotso power" because everything (equipment, staff and customers) are all going to need to plug something in.

Other thoughts:

-big fat conduits
-roomy server room with A/C, big battery backup for gracefully bringing everything down (but only after an hour or more), racks, rooms for plenty of monitors
-speaking of monitors....why not offer up monitors and keyboards/mice that people can plug their laptops into?
-when you say signage, are you considering electronic signage that can be controlled centrally?

and of course, my favorites:

-automated materials sorting with automated storage and retrievable system
-automated checkin which feeds material directly into the sorter
-automated returns system for getting material close to where it needs to be reshelved

Funny, the first things that

Funny, the first things that came to my mind were more power jacks and charging stations.

Funny, the first thing that

Funny, the first thing that came to my mind was more power jacks and charging stations.

This was probably too obvious

This was probably too obvious for you to specifically mention, but: power. Lots and lots of electrical outlets, well positioned for laptop users. I pick a place to sit based on its proximity to an outlet. So my rule would be: for every seat a power outlet.