Library uses VoIP to route calls to least busy workers, connect to SuperNet provincial high-speed network

Until last spring, the Calgary Public Library had separate phone systems in its 18 branches. Scott Stanley, the library’s IT manager, wanted to integrate those phone systems to handle calls more effectively and reduce trunk costs. VoIP wasn’t the only way, Stanley says, but the library had access to the Alberta SuperNet. The ability to use the provincial high-speed optical network’s relatively inexpensive bandwidth, and the prospect of integrating the phone system with other library applications, made the case for VoIP.

The library finished installing its VoIP equipment, provided by Cisco Systems Inc., in July, though it took until October to get all branches connected to SuperNet.

Better call routing is one benefit. Previously, if a patron called a branch and was referred to someone at another location, the patron had to hang up and call another number. Now it’s easy to transfer calls among locations.

It’s also easier to balance the call load across locations. Stanley says the central library is usually busier during the day, while branch libraries are quiet in the daytime and busier in the evening. The library is considering routing phone inquiries to branch libraries during the day and to the central library in the evening to even out workloads.

Because the Cisco system is compatible with Extensible Markup Language (XML), Stanley says, it can be integrated with applications like the inventory tracking and customer management system.

The library’s network infrastructure was completely revamped in 2004, Stanley says. As a result, he was “pleasantly surprised” at how well it handled voice traffic.

Still, the implementation wasn’t totally smooth. The SuperNet connection to the central library offers 45 Megabits per second of bandwidth, while branches have only five Mbps each. Soon after the system went in, the library installed a new Citrix server, increasing data traffic over the WAN, and started seeing occasional problems with traffic exceeding available bandwidth at branches, causing voice quality problems. The library solved the problem through packet shaping, which prevented the branches from receiving more traffic than they could handle.

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