Pennsylvania's Cumberland County Library System (CCLS) recently selected Comcast Business Ethernet Services to network CCLS' headquarters, eight libraries and the county courthouse together. Functions and features supported by the new services include the library system's online catalog, membership portal and eResource download center, said Jonelle Prether Darr, executive director, CCLS.
Located in the South Central part of the state, the library system serves more than 245,000 residents in a growing suburban and rural community. Many of those residents commute to nearby Harrisburg for work each day, she added.
The Carrier Ethernet network is comprised of ten 100 Mbps to 1G connections linking the libraries, system headquarters and the Cumberland County courthouse. The courthouse serves as the gateway to the network because 50 percent of the library's funding comes from a countywide library tax, explained Prether Darr.
"We work with the county government to spend funds strategically and to provide back-up, as well," she added.
The CCLS network also has a 100-Mbps Ethernet Dedicated Internet (EDI) link, which serves 300 on-site computers at all of the branches. The higher speeds are a very noticeable improvement over the 3- and 6-Mbps Ethernet links that CCLS' previous carrier provided to its libraries and headquarters, respectively. Three service providers responded to the E-Rate-based request for proposal after that contract expired, but Comcast was the clear winner, said Prether Darr.
"Comcast was the best in terms of bandwidth and cost," she said.
Indeed the new contract provides better and faster Carrier Ethernet service for $60,000 less than the previous contract did for much less bandwidth, explained Prether Darr. The library system plans to save more money by adding more self-checkout stations.
"The new network allows us to increase services without adding more staff," said Prether Darr.
In addition, the new network supports the 3 million visits that library customers make to the online "card" catalog every year. It also considerably speeds up downloads of audio books, e-books, reference materials and content that must be retrieved from behind firewalls such as subscription magazines and newspapers, she explained.
With CCLS' facilities located about 45 minutes to an hour apart, the library system also is using the network to provide remote training to its 200 member staff.
"The technical skills required of librarians are pretty steep. People expect us to be able to help them with their e-book readers, smart phones and laptops, so the need for training is ongoing," said Prether Darr. "Right now we are moving to a new integrated library software system so we are using our high-bandwidth links to train people in the use of that software."
Vendors also can use the system to demonstrate new products across the library system. Librarians "are big on continuing education and we have endless opportunities to take advantage of free training," she noted.
While the new Carrier Ethernet services are a welcome change, overall, staff and patrons have received them very quietly. A few staff members giggled with delight at the higher speeds right after the network was turned up, but that is about all that the feedback that was heard.
"The true measure of success is not hearing any complaints. Customers and staff are getting their services and content delivered as quickly as they want it," said Prether Darr. "It’s business as usual."