Chapter 4. Building Intelligent Infrastructures: Steps toward Designing IoT-Enabled Library Facilities

Jonathan Bradley, Patrick Tomlin, Brian Mathews


Chapter 4 of Library Technology Reports (vol. 54, no. 1), “Library Spaces and Smart Buildings: Technology, Metrics, and Iterative Design”

Chapter 4 of Library Technology Reports (vol. 54, no. 1), “Library Spaces and Smart Buildings: Technology, Metrics, and Iterative Design,” provides a brief overview of how the authors applied IoT technology to the Newman Library at Virginia Tech in an attempt to better understand our users’ interactions with its spaces. By tracking the movement of furniture in the library commons, we hoped to illuminate patterns of student work, examine the density of particular work areas, and ultimately create more effectively designed learning spaces and user experiences. Using accelerometers, motion detectors, force sensors, and Bluetooth beacons, we created a system for monitoring where and when furniture and equipment were moved, what study rooms were occupied, and how students interacted with them. The project outlined here represents the first, preliminary steps in a much larger endeavor. Nevertheless, we believe it poses important questions for the study of library spaces and services at the outset. In short, can IoT technologies help us to better understand the nature of the interactions occurring in libraries and ultimately empower us to enhance the user experience in previously unknown ways? Through this project, we uncovered three overarching design challenges: battery life, programming language, and security. The chapter outlines the problems and offers some lessons learned. Our goal is not only to better understand the health and fitness of our facilities and improve services for our community, but we also aim to inspire other libraries to explore IoT.

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Jacob Morgan, “A Simple Explanation of ‘The Internet of Things,’” Leadership/#NewTech, Forbes website, May 13, 2014,


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