Orange County Public Libraries Move to Virtualization


The Orange County Public Library System operates a fleet of 850 PCs providing free access to the Internet, Microsoft Office applications, the library catalog and many other database services. The access is very popular with local residents, but given how heavily those computers are used, they have to be constantly maintained and updated frequently. Recently, county IT officials moved to a virtual desktop environment which allowed them to cut some of the costs and time associated with the perpetual upkeep of machines.

However, that wasn’t easy, explains Clyde Gamboa, Director of Information Technology in an interview with CivSource. “We were restarting those machines multiple times a day after a patron was finished, which isn’t always the best thing you can do to a computer,” he says. “They also have to be linked with the rest of the library system.”

Gamboa opted to virtualize the desktop environments so that if there was an issue, his team could simply create a new desktop instead of having to scrap and re-image the whole machine. The Library System opted to go with Citrix XenDesktop after a successful pilot project that included two library branches.

“At the end of the pilot people asked if they could just keep using the system, so we knew we were on the right track,” Gamboa says.

Existing PCs have been repurposed as thin clients running Citrix Receiver client software. The team developed three new system images: one for public Internet machines, one for database search machines and one for internal staff systems. The move saved the library system approximately $1.2 million, as they were able to hold on to some of the existing machines, and streamline licensing.

“We will save $660,000 in PC purchases alone,” says Gamboa.

Virtual desktops have also made software updates easier because Gamboa and his team aren’t going branch to branch downloading new versions. Instead, they can update all 33 branches once from the server and the changes will show up immediately.

Going forward the library plans to expand mobile access options for staff and improve other aspects of service delivery with virtualization. “The adoption process was very easy, nothing much changed for staff or patrons, they just get a faster system that’s always running the new versions of the applications they use.”