Edge Initiative Article

Benchmark 9: How much bandwidth does my library need?
By Samantha Becker, Sofia Leung, and Robert Bocher

What is Bandwidth and why is it important?
Edge benchmark 9 measures a library’s ability to accommodate user demand for public access technology. In our previous article, we discussed benchmark 9.1, which evaluates the number of device hours that the library provides to its community. Benchmark 9.2 looks at whether a “library meets or exceeds the minimum bandwidth capacity necessary to support public user [Internet] demand.” Why is bandwidth so important to providing patrons with access to Internet related services and applications? In brief, bandwidth is a measure of how much information can be transmitted over an Internet connection. For example, it determines how quickly a website loads and the quality of a video a patron is watching. It is helpful to think of bandwidth like a straw. The larger the diameter of the straw – or the more bandwidth you have – the faster you can drink, or the faster you can receive information from the web. Bandwidth is measured in bits per second, which is how many units of data (bits) can be transmitted in one second. Because a bit is a very small unit (smaller than a single character), most people are more familiar seeing bandwidth expressed in kilobits per second (kbps), or as megabits per second (mbps). A kilobit is 1,024 bits, and a megabit is 1,024 kilobits. The total available bandwidth that comes into a library building, or the amount the Internet Service Provider (ISP) has agreed to supply, will most likely be measured in mbps, unless the library has already upgraded to gigabit (gbps) service—which very few libraries have. To access full article Click Here

Benchmark 9: What are device hours per capita and how do they help me?

Device hours per Capita
Edge benchmark 9 speaks to the need for libraries to provide a sufficient number of computers, equipment, and bandwidth to support users’ needs.. Indicator 9.1 uses the term device hours per capita to express the level of physical access to the library’s technology resources. So what is a device hour? Device hours are a way to take into account the number of hours a library location is open as well as the number of computers (devices) the library provides for public use. After all, a library with 100 computers doesn’t do its community any good if it is only open 10 hours a week. If the doors are closed, there is no access, no matter how many computers are sitting in the dark. The device hours per capita measurement a way to standardize the number of device hours in order to assess a library’s capacity against the benchmark. It combines the number of computers, laptops, and other Internet-enabled devices the library makes available to patrons with the number of hours those devices are available. The result is a figure that represents how many hours of computer time each member of the library’s community are “entitled” to were everyone in the community to use the library’s computers equally. So, a library with a device hours per capita rate of 3.0 would be capable of providing each member of its community with 3 hours of computer time per year. Of course, not everyone in the community will use the library’s computers (though 25-30% of them will!), but device hours per capita provides a whole number that represents the level of access for the community.
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