New CIO plans long-overdue upgrades at Library of Congress

Shutterstock image: Library of Congress interior.

Bernard A. Barton Jr. joined the Library of Congress as the first full-time CIO in three years on Sept. 8, just days after the venerable institution suffered a weeklong outage of some key IT systems. The outage, linked to an equipment failure during a restart following routine maintenance, was yet another problem in an aging IT infrastructure that is overdue for modernization.

"I would hesitate to try to assign blame to any one particular source," Barton told FCW in a phone interview. There are problems related to the local power supply, the requirements of the Architect of the Capitol, who manages the facilities, and the age of some equipment, he said. "We are taking active steps to make sure that this specific type of interruption doesn't happen again, and we are going to be addressing the infrastructure issues that from our side of things contributed to the issue." 

Some of those issues include problems raised in a March 2015 report from the Government Accountability Office, which called out five key weaknesses in Library IT: strategic planning, investment management, information security and privacy, service management, and leadership.

Bernard Barton, CIO for the Library of Congress

Bernard Barton, CIO for the Library of Congress.

"I expect we will be addressing all five of those concerns simultaneously, and putting the resources necessary to each one of them to be successful, and getting to the end result that the report also laid out for us," Barton told FCW.

One of Barton's first tasks will be to review and modify an interim strategic plan for IT that has been in circulation for a few months. He's preparing a final plan in accordance with the overall LOC strategic plan, "to make sure that what I’m laying out for the IT strategy is in alignment with all our major initiatives," he said. The new plan will be out by the end of September, Barton said.

Barton is keeping his options open when it comes to infrastructure modernization. Data storage is a huge challenge – and one that hits home in a sector where a "Library of Congress" is a popular, if unusual, unit of measurement, often pegged at 10 terabytes. The plan is to look at what commercial vendors can offer. He's looking at cloud, on-premise data centers and off premise storage. "There is nothing off the table from a technology capability perspective to help us meet the needs of our customers," Barton said.

Before coming to the Library, Barton served as CIO and deputy administrator of the Defense Technical Information Center, a repository of research and technical information. He said that from a technical standpoint, it was good training for the Library of Congress. "Many of the same challenges and issues needed to be addressed -- the presentation of content to customers on a big picture scale," he said.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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