The British Library has launched wireless internet connectivity in the public areas of its building at St Pancras. The new service offers wireless internet access (WiFi) throughout the 11 reading rooms, the 225-seat conference auditorium, the café and restaurant and even the outdoor Piazza area. It will enable readers, researchers and business-people to connect to the internet and access email using either their existing service provider or by using the Library's own pay-as-you-go service.
The Library receives around 3,000 visitors a day and its proximity to Kings Cross, Euston and the forthcoming Channel Tunnel Rail Link make it an ideal location for business travellers to drop in and, using a PDA or wirelessly-enabled laptop, check their email or consult the web.
“At the British Library we are continually exploring ways in which technology can help us to improve services to our users,” said Lynne Brindley, Chief Exececutive of the British Library. “All of us are more reliant than ever upon information and communications technology and we increasingly expect to be able to have access to that technology whenever and wherever we need it. Surveys we conducted recently confirmed that, alongside the materials they consult here, our users want to be able to access the Internet when they are at the Library for research or to communicate with colleagues.”
John De Lucy, the Library's Head of Estates and Facilities, commissioned Building Zones, consultants in providing technology that changes the way people use buildings, to undertake a user study with the aim of identifying the computing equipment that visitors were bringing to the Library and their needs for wireless Internet connectivity. The study revealed the following:
- Laptop ownership amongst visitors was a staggering 86 per cent
- The average dwell-time in the building was six hours
- Users were leaving the library to go to a nearby Internet café to access their email
- 16 per cent of the visitors only came to the library to sit down, have a coffee and use the library as a business centre
The conclusion from the survey was that there was an overwhelming demand for the service. Email was the most requested application and visitors preferred to access this from their own equipment rather than a fixed terminal. Continued access to the British Library catalogue was also a requirement.
Building Zones partnered with The Cloud and Hewlett Packard (HP) to roll out the building infrastructure, network and user support services. The trial service went live on the 31 May this year and by the end of that period the service was registering 1,200 sessions per week. With this level of usage The British Library is central London 's most active, and largest, public hotspot.
“The Library is a popular location for mobile workers and its strategic location between the three major transportation hubs of Kings Cross, Euston Station and the soon to be opened Eurostar terminal is a huge factor in attracting these users who need to be able to access email and the Internet,” said Philip Ross, Chairman of Building Zones. “This is the recognised vision of wirelessly enabled 'work environments‘ rather than locations such as cafés. In the near future, wireless technology will change building design, urban planning and how people work and the completion of The British Library project is a major success story for this technology.”
The new wireless service is operated independently from the existing Library private network infrastructure, therefore ensuring there is no security risk to critical business applications and that the Library's private network is protected from laptop borne viruses or local hackers.
“In today's increasingly demanding environment, connectivity is not just about enabling users to access a file or check their mail, it is also critical to deliver a high quality, secure and user friendly service” said George Polk, CEO and Founder of The Cloud. “The Cloud's multiple service provider platform enables users to get online with their chosen provider or a pay-as-you-go service, providing flexible, intuitive connectivity for all. The Cloud is delighted to have been chosen as the platform of choice for The British Library's wireless Internet service”.
As well as delivering the network infrastructure behind The Library's WiFi service, The Cloud is also facilitating an outsourced support service for the Library's users thereby removing the need for the Library to hire support staff to manage this service.
The British Library serves around 500,000 readers every year through the reading rooms at St Pancras and offers access to resources including the world's largest collection of patents and the UK 's richest and most extensive collection of science, technology and medical information. In addition to users of the reading rooms the Library also serves remote users around the world, satisfying between three and four million information requests every year.