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Baltimore County Now

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Keyword: baltimore county office of information technology

Beyond the BookshelvesRob Stradling, Director
Baltimore County Office of Information Technology

Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL) Director Jim Fish has good reason to boast about their circulation numbers, which show that BCPL continues to be one of the best and busiest library systems in the country and is being used by more people for more reasons than ever before. In 2012, BCPL checked out a whopping 10.7 million pieces of material and serviced 5.5 million walk-in customers in its 19 branches and 4 bookmobiles. Most of us see traditional libraries as buildings filled with books, music and movies, but if you pay a visit to your local branch, you’ll see how the traditional public library is changing. For example, did you know that in 2012, BCPL also had more than 5 million hits on its website, provided computer access to over 1.1 million citizens through the use of its public PCs and Wi-Fi network, and circulated more than 226,000 electronic books?

Today, libraries, including BCPL, depend on their ability to adapt to the needs of the community, with technology fueling much of that adaptability. The typical library customer is changing, too. In addition to countless shelves of traditional printed materials, Baltimore County residents will soon have reliable high-speed access to the digital world, when the County installs a broadband fiber-optic network (BCON) to connect various County buildings, including the Library and its branches. The County will begin by connecting BCPL Administrative Offices and 10 branches, with the cost savings increasing as the remaining branches are connected to BCON.

To satisfy customer demand and take advantage of technology, I worked with BCPL Director Jim Fish to conduct a Business Process Analysis (BPA) of the Library’s technology function to improve service delivery, streamline workflows and reduce redundancies. The BPA identified several major areas in which BCPL and the Office of Information Technology (OIT) were duplicating efforts, resources and contracts. Consolidation in these areas will save significant taxpayer dollars — more than $143,000 annually. 

Overall, the measures identified in the BPA will save the Library nearly $500,000 by the end of FY15. Even more importantly, these projects lay the foundation for OIT and BCPL to work together to continue to uncover more innovative ways to deliver improved services at lower costs. Additionally, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz intends to fund the Library Equipment Refresher Projects to the tune of $1 million, which will replace the Library’s technology equipment when it has reached the end of its useful life. 

Future innovations will include many similar technology projects. Continually seeking and exploiting the combined resources of OIT and the Library’s Technical Support functions will reinforce the existing partnership between OIT and BCPL. Over time, that spirit of cooperation and unity will reward the citizens of Baltimore County with a library that still includes those bookshelves, but one that also lives on the forefront of technology.


Baltimore County GPS Technologyby Chip Hiebler, IT Senior Project Manager
Baltimore County Office of Information Technology

In fleet management, just like real estate, it’s all about “location, location, location.” Recently, the Baltimore County Office of Information Technology installed a fleet tracking system on all County owned vehicles. With its extensive tracking and mapping capabilities, this system pinpoints the exact locations of County vehicles, allowing work crews and managers to be more efficient in responding to calls for service and to identify the most expeditious routing of job locations. This improved management of agency operations also cuts fuel costs and emissions, helping to reduce environmental impact.

The system provides a Garmin GPS unit in each vehicle, allowing dispatchers to send service calls and messages directly to drivers. The driver can directly respond to service calls, reporting back when they have accepted and completed assigned jobs. The system’s turn by turn directions reduce fuel costs by helping drivers take the most direct route and avoid getting lost.

By using NexTraq’s mapping capability, dispatchers can see their entire fleet’s location and assign jobs to the nearest mobile employee. The system also provides route planning that will automatically optimize a list of locations or jobs into the shortest and most expeditious route, resulting in a savings of both time and money. As you can imagine, this is a huge time-saver whether the employee is an animal control officer, a code enforcement inspector, a Highways crew chief, a CountyRide driver, a fire marshal, a public health nurse, an emergency medical technician, a computer specialist or a solid waste collection supervisor. The list and the benefits go on. But let’s take a quick look at some of the key savings for taxpayers:

October 2011 (Pre GPS) – County vehicles drove 613,737 miles

October 2012 (Post GPS) – County vehicles drove 493,463 miles

Savings – 120, 273 fewer miles/ month

$8,300 saved in monthly fuel cost

$100,000 annual fuel savings

Yes indeed, that’s a lot of money, but the system is about more than saving money in fuel costs. For example, agencies can see a direct benefit by using the system to streamline their existing business processes for employees in the field, better utilizing existing resources. Agencies can also use GPS to keep track of mobile assets, track vehicle locations and create detailed reports that can help reduce costs.

The system alerts County managers if a particular vehicle is idling for too long, is speeding or is inactive for an excessive period of time. Monitoring these alerts allows agencies to manage and address any such driver issues and to easily monitor unauthorized vehicle use.

This GPS fleet tracking system is just one more example of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s mandate that County agencies use technology to improve customer service and save taxpayer dollars by working more efficiently. Now, ladies and gentlemen start your engines.


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