Northbrook Public Library Upgrades Aging Telephony System to Serve 33,000 Residents
Northbrook Public Library represents the story of dedicated citizens and organizations who have devoted time and effort to supporting and promoting the library. The Chicago-suburb library believes that access to information is essential to a free, creative and democratic society. Therefore, the Library strives to provide the community with an accommodating environment for the dissemination, exchange, and evaluation of ideas and information. This mission is enabled by providing a wide variety of materials and resources, services, modern facilities and a professional staff.
When you think of your local library, you might not envision state-of-the-art technology or the place to learn how to use your mobile device. But for the Northbrook Library outside of Chicago, Ill., they serve a community of 33,000 residents with not only books but free movies, children and adult classes, technology lessons, and Wi-Fi, among other programs.
The culturally diverse but affluent community members also visit Northbrook for access to specialty tools and technology they may not have at home, including laser cutters, 3D printers, CNC machines, embroidery and sewing classes.
Behind the scenes, however, the library struggled to facilitate their popular events due to outdated communications systems. Their aging PBX telephone system was reaching end-of-life status, leaving their staff of 120 without extensions or voice mail.
“People expect us to be cutting edge, not bleeding edge, and bring them access to make their lives richer or highlight new services. This requires continual staff training, which was challenging.” Executive Director Kate Hall said of their inability to host adequate technology in the library.
“Northbrook’s role in the community is to provide educational and recreational activities, materials and services. But our internal telephone system left us frozen in time. We couldn’t even offer voicemail, so we knew we needed to do something differently.”
"Being able to lean on the expertise companies like RingCentral is really helpful and valuable for us because it allows us to do a lot more than we could if we were trying to do it on our own.”
Northbrook Assistant Director, IT
RingCentral Offers Cloud-Based Platform to Overhaul Entire Communications
Thus began their search for a new telecommunications platform that would provide cloud-based solutions to bring everyone into the 21st century.
“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 don’t want to lose access to services.” Assistant Director Brodie Austin said.
In collaboration with other government agencies, Northbrook upgraded their inbound Internet connection to live on a fiber ring shared by local governmental agencies. The library’s staff realized their increase in productivity through high-quality connection speeds and installed new cabling in the building to provide more bandwidth.
This newfound productivity paved the way for the staff to realize the power of ethernet connections, cloud solutions, and less of a dependency on desk phones. A RingCentral deployment soon followed, pushing everything to the cloud to provide more flexibility and easier management of personnel accounts.
Almost immediately, they had a complete suite of tools at their fingertips, without having to augment their tech stack to achieve the same results.
“You see a lot of libraries in our area scrambling to patch together a lot of the tools that we bundled together in RingCentral. That's been really helpful,” Austin said.
Scheduling and Registration Becomes Seamless from the Cloud
One of Northbrook’s most popular programs is their free movie series in the 225 person auditorium. Prior to their RingCentral implementation, the staff struggled with the influx of registration calls, as it was nearly impossible to track calls, retrieve voicemails or fluidly register patrons for the movies. Now, they have a seamless customer experience for members to call in and sign up for their movie events. The team can track calls, log the length of calls and even have contests to see who answers the most phone calls in one day.
RingCentral Makes Remote Work Even Easier Amid Pandemic
Once the Coronavirus forced the library to transition their teams to a remote workforce, Northbrook’s staff was thankful for the RingCentral migration prior to the pandemic. Unlike many businesses without remote technology in place, Northbrook didn’t have to make hasty decisions and was able to work from home easily. In addition, they added the Meetings platform to conduct remote board and staff meetings.
“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 story time with youth services,” Austin said.
“Without RingCentral and a 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.
But sometimes, they still need the help of their implementation team to defer to as they move toward managed services and more cloud solutions, knowing the community relies on their expertise.
“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. “The community definitely looks to us to teach them how to navigate this new landscape,” She added.