Alberta library clears up call congestion

An Alberta library is taking advantage of its city’s recently-installed fibre network to improve customer support over the telephone.

Red Deer Public Library Tuesday said it was up and running with an IP telephony system that will help

it deal with the rising level of calls it has been receiving over the last few years. While Red Deer has only 70,000 people, a library official says it attracts about 650,000 visitors a year. Many of those visits are in person, but there are also many phone calls, which up until recently were handled by asking callers to dial a different number or transferred manually.

“”It’s been like an explosion,”” said Dean Frey, Red Deer’s director of library services. “”We’ve probably doubled our visits in the last eight years. I think that has a lot to do with our profile, but basically there’s just more of a demand for information.””

The library’s solution, which is based on Avaya Canada‘s IP Office product, allows the organization to reduce the number of phone, fax and data lines installed both in its main branch and its North Red Deer branch, Frey said.

“”We realize now how important the telephone is in terms of the whole customer service experience,”” he said. “”As a librarian, my profession is based on the building I work in, but libraries are much more proactive now.””

The project is in part the offspring of RedNeT, a partnership between the City of Red Deer, urban and rural school boards, the health region and the public library. The fibre-optic network is owned by the city but managed jointly by the partners and provides gigabit-per-second connectivity for a broad range of applications. This made the phone network upgrade a natural next step, Frey said. “”It basically funded itself.””

John Williams, Avaya Canada’s director of distribution sales, said the Red Deer Public Library project is similar to ones the company has pursued with much larger municipalities in Ontario, but IP Office, which was released in Canada only two months ago, may help level the playing field, he said. That’s because it can offer similar features to libraries that may be only a fraction the size of, say, Toronto. “”They have the same requirements, just on a smaller scale,”” he said.

Frey said the library is just starting to take advantage of the management software included in the Avaya product, which is providing better quality service and fewer dropped calls for its staff.

“”I don’t want to lose a phone call because I’m downloading a file at the same time,”” he said.

As users become more sophisticated, Williams said the library could make the software intelligently route calls to the most appropriate person in the library, through a mix of computer telephony integration and interactive voice response.

“”They can actually set up call processing protocols, like a mini-call centre,”” he said.

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