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New York Public Library CTO Aboyoun on cloud, storage, future of the library

​Jane Aboyoun, CTO of the New York Public Library, talks about how she approaches cloud computing, digitizing and storing content and the future of the institution.

Jane Aboyoun, CTO of the New York Public Library, is in the middle of a cultural transformation of an institution that's increasingly thinking cloud first.

The New York Public Library (NYPL) has 92 locations throughout the Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan, 12,000 devices and a staff of 85 IT professionals.

Aboyoun sees a bright future for libraries, but one that'll be different than the previous role. The future library will be more of a community hub that'll connect its customers by and to technology.

Here are a few key points from my talk with Aboyoun:

The jump to Workday for human capital management and financials. Aboyoun said that the New York Public Library went live on Workday for HR in January 2012, payroll in March 2012 and then financials in January 2014. The move to the cloud was a clean break from a heavily customized system that couldn't be upgraded. Toss in hardware and an operating system that was expiring and the New York Public Library had a green field opportunity (largely because its systems were so dated). "The CFO was a big proponent of moving to the cloud," said Aboyoun.

Evaluating cloud vendors. To Aboyoun, tech vendors born in the cloud have an edge. "Being born in the cloud is critical because trying to retrofit doesn't really work well. You have to start fresh with functionality," she said. "Vendors also need to have a strong management team, security and a roadmap showing where they are headed."

Will suites win in the cloud? Aboyoun said the concept of a suite could have legs in the cloud just as it does in software, but application programming interfaces change the equation a good bit. "APIs integrate and automate," said Aboyoun, who noted that integration of disparate cloud systems can bring a lot of the advantages of a suite. The biggest issue for APIs are that they aren't broad enough in many cases, she said.

The stack today. In addition to Workday, the NYPL also uses Google Apps and ServiceNow. However, the NYPL doesn't have a modern customer relationship management package. "We're on deck to look at CRM and review the core pieces," said Aboyoun. The NYPL depends on donations as well as city funding. Aboyoun said she's looking for a CRM system that will give her a better view of the customer and what lectures, content and events they want. "We need a better understanding so we can market to them," she said.

The future of the library. The need for a CRM system highlights how the NYPL is evolving. The library has to think beyond donors to the broader customer base. "Libraries are trying to stay relevant in a digital world and need to focus on the user experience digital and on site," said Aboyoun. Libraries are becoming community hubs for training, classes and educational programming. She added that libraries are also teaching business and tech skills. Libraries also serve a big role in preserving documents and research.

Digital storage. The NYPL has its own data center and storage array for preserving documents and material digitally. This storage is handled on premise, said Aboyoun. The NYPL does use Amazon Web Services for Web infrastructure, but the storage for digitized documents is on premise. The reason is largely because of the way the NYPL is funded. The city won't fund cloud storage because it's not a capital expense. Since the NYPL has to keep multiple documents digitally it is likely to use the cloud more in the future. For the foreseeable future, NYPL will use a hybrid storage approach.