Library making FootPrints

When one thinks of libraries, “leading IT adopter” probably isn’t one of the first monikers to come to mind. The Calgary Public Library is looking to buck that trend, though, by implementing a new service desk automation tool.

With 16 branches across the Calgary area, the Calgary Public Library is the fourth-largest library in Canada, and processes the fourth-most transactions annually of any library in North America. Greg Smith, IT control manager for the Calgary Public Library, has big plans to make Calgary a showcase library system for the digital age.

Calgary is already well down the road. Its branches are connected to the Alberta Supernet, all its infrastructure has been upgraded with level seven firewalls and routers, and an IP-based phone system has been installed for all 16 branches.

“Our infrastructure is all state-of-the-art now,” said Smith. “I would say we’re way more advanced than other libraries.”

Like most libraries, though, budgets and resources are an issue, and as Calgary continues down the road to adopting more technology, it’s sure to put more strain on the library system’s 25-person IT staff, which is responsible for supporting the system’s 700-plus staff, not to mention the systems used by external clients.

“I’m trying to create the automated processes that allow us to become more efficient in keeping IT costs down, from the labour standpoint, as well as serving our clients at a much higher rate,” said Smith.

For help, Calgary has turned to FootPrints, a service desk automation tool from Edison, N.J.-based UniPress Software Inc., going live with the system at the end of October.

Smith said he had used FootPrints at a previous job, and was impressed with its robustness and ease of implementation. He also liked the fact that it was Web-based, allowing staff to access the system from any computer, which wasn’t possible with their old client-based application.

Smith said Calgary is currently using the ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) components of FootPrints, including functions for its IT support desk, for software change management and IT project management.

“One of the nice things is you can auto-escalate tickets to different areas,” said Smith. “It gives me the ability to define my support staff’s roles so they can go in and be more efficient with problems.”

IT support staff previously would answer the phone to take trouble calls and fix the problem before writing a trouble ticket, meaning a lot of paperwork would pile up at the end of the day and things could get missed. With FootPrints, a ticket is created right away and is auto-assigned to the right support team, said Smith.

The phone call will be eliminated from the process altogether within two months, he added, with ground-level library staff entering their own trouble tickets right into FootPrints through the library’s intranet.

While IT support is the core market for FootPrints, UniPress product manager Michele McFadden said the product is used by companies for a range of internal support functions, from human resources to facilities maintenance.

“FootPrints has a unique feature called projects, which are individual sub-databases, each of which has its own fields, forms, users and settings,” said McFadden. “You can set up two discrete groups to do different types of tracking.”

McFadden noted that the Toronto Public Library is a long-time FootPrints user, and helped develop a facilities management template that is used by many other customers today. “When a lightbulb goes out or a room has to be painted, the field services people actually get tickets assigned to them,” said McFadden.

While there are users in the SMB and the large enterprise space, McFadden said the sweet spot for FootPrints is the mid-market, typically a company with 30 to 50 users. “They’re looking for a product that has a ton of functionality and flexibility [without having to pay] tens of thousands of dollars in consulting services,” said McFadden.

Competitors in the space include Remedy, now owned by BMC, as well as Magic, which has also been bought by BMC.

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