The Need for Legacy Equipment: Why Introducing AV Over IP in Libraries Isn’t so Simple

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People come to libraries for many reasons other than books. For many, the AV equipment has to be up to par for things like meetings and presentations. This means keeping that technology up to date and easy to use.

AV over IP checks many of these boxes. Unfortunately, old tech can’t simply be thrown out or ignored when it comes to libraries. Archived media will often only work with legacy equipment, and as long as that media continues to be relevant, the legacy equipment will need to be kept.

But you can’t just stick to legacy equipment. George Washington University’s John Arpino explains that in the near future, legacy analog hardware will no longer be able to convey the high-quality video content common in today’s university setting.

The only option, then, is to get the best of both world by integrating AV over IP into legacy equipment. This is a topic that we’ve talked about before, but as libraries have specific needs, it’s important to understand just what libraries will be using this AV equipment for, where it’s better to stick to legacy equipment and where updating to AV over IP is appropriate.

AV over IP is a powerful system that can make it easier for both librarians and guests to interact with the AV equipment. Even if you’re sticking with legacy equipment for some things, there’s a strong case to be made for including AV over IP into your system.

Why AV over IP?

If you know you’re going to have to stick with your legacy equipment for some things, AV over IP can be a hard sell.

Introducing a new system is always hard, especially if you have to justify the cost and time spent to someone. But if you’re looking to upgrade user experience, functionality and flexibility, AV over IP is an easy choice.

Erik Indresøvde at Black Box Network Services notes that AV over IP has a wide range of applications. In libraries, it can help with everything from presentations to wayfinding. While it won’t necessarily interact with archived media, it can better interact with current media.

There are many benefits to including AV over IP. One of the main reasons people switch over is due to the ease of use. It works over the internet, something that many people already have familiarity with. This makes it far easier to train both librarians and guests on.

It also makes things more portable and easy to manage. Paul Bray at AV Magazine finds that networking devices helps to reduce the amount of wires used. Especially for smaller libraries, where every little inch of space counts, reducing the amount of clutter is incredibly important.

Also, moving the equipment to where it needs to be for presentations needs to be done quickly, efficiently and without disturbing those who are just trying to read. Reducing the amount of cables used can help achieve this.

There are several ways to properly integrate AV over IP. As SVSi states: “Networked AV devices can be installed on a physically separate network or converged onto an existing gigabit Ethernet network.”

These benefits are why many AV professionals are switching over to AV over IP. It’s the hot topic of conversation at many conferences, and is being used more and more in a wide variety of places.

This is incredibly beneficial for libraries who are thinking of integrating, because it means there is plenty of education on the subject. Commercial Integrator, for example, offers advice when it comes to dealing with common pitfalls. Learning this will help you assuage any worries when suggesting integrating AV over IP.

Taking the time to brush up on this exciting new technology will make it easier to integrate with the legacy equipment you will often have to face.

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Integrating with Legacy Equipment

There are a few reasons that a library would need to integrate with legacy equipment. For one, older archives and media might not work well with AV over IP. Also, university libraries might need to have systems that play nicely with the rest of the building.

Whatever the reason, Allure Technology’s Eric Bruno believes that legacy equipment doesn’t need to be a bad thing. “Instead of viewing legacy IT systems as something holding you back, accept them for what they are: valuable systems that still work,” he writes.

“This positive view will help enable and empower your IT and development organizations to find new and creative ways to build these systems into your automation plans, safely work around them, or to retire systems as appropriate.”

A Paradigm Shift

The first step in integrating legacy equipment, then, is changing the way you think about it. Reframing the discussion to portray this equipment as an asset, not an obstacle for you to overcome.

Once you have the right frame of mind, you can start creating a plan. As UpTop states, it’s important to treat integrating legacy equipment like building a house. Without “having a good understanding of the homeowner’s goals and insight into how the main structure can handle the addition,” a contractor would probably create “a dysfunctional structure that requires construction work to be re-done.”

The same goes for integrating legacy equipment. If you don’t take the time to understand the benefits of introducing AV over IP, what purpose the legacy equipment serves, and what you’re hoping to gain by integrating the two, you probably won’t be successful.

By doing this, you can decide which of the legacy systems it would be appropriate to keep, and which would be appropriate to replace with networked AV. Simply note if the legacy system serves a specific purpose that would not be better served by AV over IP — for example, the legacy equipment used to interact with archived media is definitely something that should be kept.

Auditing Your Systems

Are there some legacy systems that you’re unsure about keeping? While Kramer speaks about installing AV over IP in a classroom, a lot of what they say applies to libraries, as well. They state that it’s important to identify the “self-contained” legacy systems. Figuring out how important these systems are to the entire framework can help you decide whether or not to keep them.

Nick Ismail notes that IT and AV professionals might have a hard time communicating. It is important to take that into account while planning, as well. Take the time to sit down with everyone, make sure that goals and expectations are communicated well, and make a solid, actionable plan with clear steps.

Media Compression

Compression protocols also need to be taken into account when planning.

“Organizations need to understand the best compression protocols for their needs,” Mechdyne’s Mike Pedersen writes. “Different protocols are rarely compatible, so organizations must make their decision early on about which protocol they want to use. In addition, organizations need to understand the potential for data loss when information is compressed and decompressed depending on their chosen protocol.”

Integrating AV over IP isn’t a simple thing that stops after launch, either. “It is no longer ‘good enough’ to have all of your audio and video equipment and systems on the network,” AV Technology contributing editor Cindy Davis notes. “AV connected to the network should provide actionable information in real time for immediate troubleshooting, diagnoses, or analysis.”

Running regular tests to make sure everything is still working as it should will help to catch problems before they spiral out of control.

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Finding the Right System

There are several products that can help you integrate AV over IP. While you should do your research and consult with professionals who have experience in integrating AV over IP, here are several products that might be able to get you started:

  • If you’re looking for something simple to set up, for example, SnapAV is highly praised for its simplicity. It claims to only take five minutes to set up, making it a good option for libraries looking to test AV over IP capabilities in a setting with low time commitment.
  • When it comes specifically to integration, Audinate’s Dante AVIO Adapters are just one example of equipment that can help connect legacy and new equipment. These adapters were made specifically to connect legacy audio gear with a Dante-connected system.
  • Finally, if you’re trying to import an AV over IP system that integrates well with legacy equipment, it’s important to find a system that is flexible. Raritan offers a RAV-IP Distribution System that displays that flexibility front and center. It’s also fairly easy to install and low cost, making it a great option for libraries on a budget.

Ultimately, it’s up to your library to decide which system would work best with legacy equipment. If you’re a university library, you might have to convince the university’s budgetary team that this is a worthwhile investment.

Having an idea of what system you want to use can be incredibly beneficial for this. If you can give specific examples of how this system will make your library run more efficiently for both library staff and guests, it will be much easier to get those who make these decisions onboard.

Images by: Michael D. Beckwith, Elijah Hail, J Zamora

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