By Rob Stradling, Director
Baltimore County Office of Information Technology
Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL) Director Jim Fish has good reason to boast about their circulation numbers, which show that BCPL continues to be one of the best and busiest library systems in the country and is being used by more people for more reasons than ever before. In 2012, BCPL checked out a whopping 10.7 million pieces of material and serviced 5.5 million walk-in customers in its 19 branches and 4 bookmobiles.
Most of us see traditional libraries as buildings filled with books, music and movies, but if you pay a visit to your local branch, you’ll see how the traditional public library is changing. For example, did you know that in 2012, BCPL also had more than 5 million hits on its website, provided computer access to over 1.1 million citizens through the use of its public PCs and Wi-Fi network, and circulated more than 226,000 electronic books?
Today, libraries, including BCPL, depend on their ability to adapt to the needs of the community, with technology fueling much of that adaptability. The typical library customer is changing, too. In addition to countless shelves of traditional printed materials, Baltimore County residents will soon have reliable high-speed access to the digital world, when the County installs a broadband fiber-optic network (BCON) to connect various County buildings, including the Library and its branches. The County will begin by connecting BCPL Administrative Offices and 10 branches, with the cost savings increasing as the remaining branches are connected to BCON.
To satisfy customer demand and take advantage of technology, I worked with BCPL Director Jim Fish to conduct a Business Process Analysis (BPA) of the Library’s technology function to improve service delivery, streamline workflows and reduce redundancies. 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.
Overall, the measures identified in the BPA will save the Library nearly $500,000 by the end of FY15. Even more importantly, these projects lay the foundation for OIT and BCPL to work together to continue to uncover more innovative ways to deliver improved services at lower costs. Additionally, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz intends to fund the Library Equipment Refresher Projects to the tune of $1 million, which will replace the Library’s technology equipment when it has reached the end of its useful life.
Future innovations will include many similar technology projects. Continually seeking and exploiting the combined resources of OIT and the Library’s Technical Support functions will reinforce the existing partnership between OIT and BCPL. Over time, that spirit of cooperation and unity will reward the citizens of Baltimore County with a library that still includes those bookshelves, but one that also lives on the forefront of technology.