March 24, 2023
Build an IT Infrastructure to Support Your Modern Public Library
High-quality connectivity helps libraries bridge the digital divide and position themselves for funding resources.
City libraries have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, becoming vibrant hubs that serve numerous community needs. In addition to their traditional book and media offerings, library technologies play a vital role in bridging the digital divide for residents who wouldn’t otherwise have access to computers and online resources.
Today, connectivity is a crucial aspect of library services, and it’s exciting to see the investments happening as libraries adapt to the changing needs of their communities. Let’s look at a few critical considerations for libraries that want to be sure their networks can deliver the services that today’s users are looking for.
Align Library Networks with Popular Uses and Services
High-speed, high-performing connectivity is a must for modern libraries, which often have to support multiple bandwidth-intensive tasks. For example, many visitors use the library to access online educational resources. These often include large video files, so networks must be able to support multiple videos streaming simultaneously.
In many communities, libraries’ external areas may be just as important as inside areas, particularly in regions that lack adequate broadband. Students, job-seekers and other users often take advantage of library parking lots as safe, accessible places to connect to the internet. To deliver this external coverage, libraries benefit from access points that can mesh out quickly, typically over a large area, without requiring significant changes to parking or other infrastructure.
If a library regularly sees that an outdoor area gets a lot of internet use, it may run a fiber-optic cable to that area as a long-term solution. But in the short term, mesh networks are an easy, affordable way to achieve solid outdoor coverage. As long as power is available and access points sit within range of an existing AP, a library can create a wireless bridge between APs.
Advanced Networks Support Visibility and Cybersecurity Goals
The key to a high-quality network is visibility, which enables an organization to determine how well the Wi-Fi is performing and to ensure an optimal user experience. Visibility also comes from location and guest services, which provide valuable data about who uses various services and where users tend to congregate in building. From a technical perspective, these insights help ensure that network infrastructure is deployed for maximum effectiveness.
Network metrics are also beneficial for understanding library use patterns. The ability to bring all network metrics into one location makes them much easier to analyze and report on, providing valuable data that can help improve services and support funding requests. For example, funding from the federal E-rate program is based, in part, on the number of library users. A library needs a robust program to differentiate between unique and repeat users to pursue those funds.
Visibility is also closely tied to cybersecurity and can be tremendously helpful for risk management. One of the best ways to manage risk is to segment the network; for instance, partitioning out one section for public access and designating other sections for employees, building control systems and perhaps Internet of Things devices.
Advanced network solutions support fast, effective segmentation. Our technology, for example, makes it easy to hyper-segment and quickly provision services without going through the arduous task of configuring multiple devices to get a specific service out to the edge. We provision at the edge and then dynamically request service from the core.
Networking is just one aspect of digital transformation, but for many libraries, it’s a foundational piece that makes other initiatives possible. The right network can modernize how libraries engage with citizens and the services they provide to their communities.
Story by Brian O'Connor & Erick Gomez