The British Library Goes Wireless

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

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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 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.”

 

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.
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