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Why You Shouldn’t Wait for a Pandemic to Overhaul Your Entire Internal Communications Platform


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Libraries have been a vital part of communities for hundreds of years. Offering access to a variety of programming including books and periodicals, computer services for children, niche programming, and specialty classes, libraries enhance their communities’ personal and professional skills with relatively low costs.

The Northbrook Library in Northbrook, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago) is no different, serving 33,000 residents of a culturally diverse community with a variety of programs and services. Whether attending a sewing class, accessing the library’s 3D printer, or registering for mobile device training, Northbrook’s members use the library for more than book lending. But with an aging telephony system, the staff quickly realized their internal communications couldn’t keep up with their outward-facing, tech-savvy reputation.

“Northbrook’s role in the community is to provide educational and recreational activities, materials and services,” Northbrook Library Executive Director Kate Hall said. “People expect us to be cutting edge, not bleeding edge, and bring them access to make their lives richer or highlight new services,” She added.

Hall realized their telephone system was nearing end-of-life and she was unable to effectively communicate with her team and the external customers. “Our internal telephone system left us frozen in time. We couldn’t even offer voicemail to all the staff that needed it, so we knew we needed to do something differently,” Hall said.

Moving to the Cloud Enables Improved Customer Experience

The Library began to upgrade their telecommunications systems, starting with inbound Internet connections with high-quality speeds to provide more bandwidth. From there, they deployed RingCentral to handle their telecom needs, replacing the dependency on hard phones with a cloud-based softphone option.

“Our big push was to move as many things to the cloud as possible, so we weren’t as reliant on on-premises technology in case our network went down. We didn’t want to lose access to services,” Northbrook Public Library Assistant Director Brodie Austin said.

With new flexibility, the Northbrook team immediately noticed improved functionality in many of the services that were previously a challenge. One of their most popular events centers around free movies in the Library’s 225 person auditorium, but scheduling was difficult with calls being routed to a busy public service desk. After deploying RingCentral, the registration process became seamless, with staff even competing to see who could answer the most calls.

RingCentral Simplifies Transition to Remote Work

While they thoroughly enjoyed having a modern, 21st-century telecommunications platform for day-to-day communications, the Library realized the true value during the Coronavirus pandemic shut down. With their new technology fully integrated, they easily shifted to remote work instead of making hasty decisions amid so much uncertainty.

“Without RingCentral’s cloud-based system, we wouldn’t have been able to offer phone numbers (to the community). We can now deploy a phone system to everyone’s house to allow them to work from home,” Hall said.

In fact, they enjoyed the cloud applications so much, they added the Meetings platform to conduct virtual training, meetings, and events.

“We now host full virtual meetings and purchased two webinar licenses to do webinar-style presentations with patrons, staff, and board meetings. We’re even using RingCentral to host storytime with youth services,” Austin said.

Knowing the community will depend on them for years to come, especially during harder times when residents need access to literature and personal skill development, Northbrook continues to provide the programming their patrons expect, just from home.

“We’re not trying to sell anything, we’re just trying to provide accurate information, which places libraries in a really unique position in the technology landscape,” Hall said.

Originally published Jul 29, 2020, updated Dec 30, 2022

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