Broadband and Libraries – 2011 Unconference

I was fortunate enough to attend Yarra Plenty Regional Library Service’s 3rd Unconference, held on Friday 18th March, being one of a few who has attended all three. This time was a bit different, in that we began the day with short presentations on Broadband related themes.  So here’s my notes from those presentations and from the breakout sessions I attended later in the day.

Brad Wynter – City of Whittlesea

We are moving from physical products and services to virtual.

Libraries are now managing over 30 media types.

Broadband will be the new transport system for the information economy. Local communities will become more reliant on electronic rather than physical transport. They will also become more sustainable, as people won’t have to leave their local community for work, education and health – as they will be able to access them electronically.

City of Whittlesea has a current release site for the National Broadband Network in South Morang. Where in the scheme of things does your local community fit in releases? You should find out.

Tony Gibbs and Sean Casey – NBN Co.

NBN Co is a government business enterprise like Australia Post. The National Broadband Network will connect 100% of Australian premises to high speed broadband. 93% will be through fibre, the other 7% through fixed wireless and satellite. Fibre will be to main population areas.

It is an open service, meaning any ISP can be used to access it.

Three trial sites in Tasmania are already operational. First release sites include Brunswick, Bacchus Marsh and South Morang.

On a global scale we don’t even rate on fibre access. This leaves us at a poor economic competition advantage. Bandwith demand is still growing – Google is trialling 1 Gig per second.

The NBN will be rolled out over 9.5 years. 10 million premises are involved. At peak construction, 5900 premises will be added per day, with 15,000 FTE staff.

The NBN will use the Telstra network as far as possible, with the copper networks turned off once fibre has taken its place.

Libraries can play a big part in educating our communities about the NBN.

Australia Post is reexamining their business practices, in the light of NBN and the reduction of physical post.  They are looking at electronic offerings. (potential competition to libraries? – my thought)

Check out Thomas Frey’s Future of Libraries trends.

Transitioning from a product-based to an experience based economy. Important for libraries to tap into this. Libraries can transform from a centre of information, to a centre of culture, a centre of the community.

Future of libraries:

  • Information Centres for NBN, Applications and digital literacy
  • Search specialist and knowledge navigators
  • Community builders and archivers
  • Creation spaces – hi definition experience
  • Transliteracy

Sue Hutley – ALIA

There is currently no National Broadband Strategy – most major nations have one. Sue is working with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on the creation of such a strategy. Both the US and the UK have them and subsidise libraries as part of that strategy.

Part of our role is telling the stories of people who aren’t connected. Need to ensure that NBN is being taken up.

Check the ALIA Website for more info at:

Tom Denison – Monash University

Broadband brings both opportunities and threats. It brings the potential to reorganise industries. We need to drive the changes, not sit and wait for them to happen.

What will change?

  • Massive growth in online video – projected to be 91% of traffic
  • Massive interest in e-health
  • Massive growth of devices connected in homes, both the number and type (check out Chumby as an example

Will build on changes brought about by mobile devices, social networking and cloud computing – less will happen with traditional websites.

We can learn from the UK experience: Huawei – Connecting Communities is looking at how the UK has worked and learn from that for the Australian experience. It focuses on two agendas:

  • digital inclusion
  • improved public service outcomes (relations between government and citizens)

UK benefits have included:

  • health
  • senior care
  • environment
  • education
  • isolated, minorities
  • public service efficiencies
  • responsiveness of public servants

Technology on its own is not enough – communities need to take advantage of it. Need social capital. Access is the start, which the NBN will provide, but effective use also requires skills.

Opportunities for libraries:

  • Access
  • Content and services
  • Education and training

Content and services could include:

  • Engage with communities and build apps and services that build social capital
  • Physical community spaces

Check out:

Sunderland’s digital community at:

Digital Panopticon – IBES and others at:

Collaborative Internet Innovation Fund (Multimedia Victoria) at:

The rest of day was filled with breakout sessions.


Scott Lewis from the ATO is developing an open source app for mobile devices that will be a gateway to our libraries. Talked about using NEER, a location based service, to provider reminders etc.  Find out more about his plans, coming soon to:

Discussed the issues surrounding the plethora of mobile devices and how we design websites that can be read on them and what it means for our existing sites. We also discussed making such devices available in our libraries to use and to try out and the implications of that.

Portable Content – Simon Goodrich

Simon is Managing Director of Portable digital studio and National President of AIMIA. He presented on emerging trends.

Changing face of television:

  • role of TV networks is changing too
  • people will watch what they want, when they want to
  • Netflix has 20% of online traffic in US – mostly downloads rather than disc – watch what happens here with Quickflix and Big Pond
  • Apple TV – which is IP TV, using wifi connection,  can stream from your computer to your TV – also has a rental service – look out for Boxie, like Apple TV but with no restrictions
  • Google TV not far away – will be very interesting
  • Not going to happen quickly though

He sees libraries as being providers of quality content.


  • Why would you need to search, when you can get an app for your interests
  • Apple is big now, Android will be bigger
  • Mobile optimised site vs app? sites are still good for now as long as they are usable, functional and look good. However, having an app is a good marketing direction

Library Thing has the Library Anywhere app for the iPhone.

Continued rise of the mobile phone:

Augmented Reality:

Layar – big role for libraries here with local history

Social Impacts

Sue Hutley got our feedback on what we are doing that can and will be impacted by the introduction of the NBN.

  • community engagement policies – check with your Council’s community development strategy
  • internet training
  • engage with stakeholders
  • train staff in NBN speak
  • teach how the community can check they are getting the Internet speed they paid for
  • see a need and speak up about it
  • work with other organisations in the local community – get the info out – pointed out that we should be talking to our local Centrelink manager

The Age commented on this new environment in “It’s the digital community, stupid“.

We need to speak to our government representatives about this. And if we have any stories about how libraries are helping the community in the digital age, email them to

And that was that for the day.

It was a very different Unconference, but I really did appreciate all the information, especially as we are looking towards the future and how the NBN and other factors will affect that for libraries.

Hope you got something out of these notes too.

UPDATE – 11th April 2011

The presentations from the day are now available online at:


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  1. […] Simon’s talk was the same as was given at the Yarra Plenty unconference – check out my report from that […]

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