Planning technology for the next 30 years

By Jason Griffey |

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?