Tools to Boost Inclusivity And Engagement For Public Libraries
Wherever they are, libraries are a pillar of the community. More than a place to check out books, they are a meeting place, a place to learn, and a sanctuary.
Inclusivity means accessibility. The mission of Unique is to give libraries the tools to serve their patrons better. With these tools – some offered by Unique and others that are simply ideas that other libraries have implemented – you can make your library more accessible for everyone.
UniqueChat makes communication simple, quick, and efficient for your virtual patrons, being able to communicate in real-time with library staff without leaving their browser. Patrons can message your library with any question, and have it answered quickly. The fast, yet asynchronous nature of chat means that patrons get a quick response, but librarians can also multi-task systematically rather than sitting on a phone and placing a queue of callers on hold.
With chat, patrons have several options of contacting the library. UniqueChat works via any browser, meaning that it is compatible on any web-connected device. That means that patrons have more options and can use any device that is connected to Wi-Fi.
UniqueChat Multi-Language Capability
How does your library support English as a second language (ESL) patrons? UniqueChat is here to eliminate any language barrier. The translation feature can automatically translate any of the 100+ languages supported by Google Translate.
The translate feature works both ways, while displaying the input message too, meaning patrons can see what you write in both languages, and the librarian can see both what the patron writes, as well as what language they choose to translate it to.
Our chat feature is designed specifically for libraries. The easy-to-use widget can easily be incorporated into your library’s homepage, right in front of your visitors. UniqueChat also includes a straightforward interface on the library end that any librarian can use.
According to the CDC, about 1 in 45 children are on the autism spectrum, and 1 in 6 have some developmental disability. This means that the library can represent an uncomfortable place for millions of children across the country.
Designed for children on the autism spectrum or with sensory processing disorder, a sensory room can be an invaluable addition to young library users and their families. A quiet, tactile, separated space away from the rest of the sometimes-bustling library can provide the much-needed sanctuary that individuals on the autism spectrum need to be able to get back to themselves.
A number or public libraries of various sizes have implemented sensory rooms, such as this one in Illinois. American Libraries Magazine featured this sensory room in Ohio in 2019 as well.
A tool born out of the pandemic, Curbside Communicator quickly became an important feature in keeping materials accessible to patrons. Whether your library is welcoming patrons back into your libraries or not, Curbside Communicator is a proven tool that can help some, or all, of your patrons.
How it works:
Curbside Communicator enables Library staff to communicate with patrons via text message to facilitate a safe and seamless curbside hold pick-up process. For the two-way text process, the circulation desk logs into a secured, Unique-hosted website to receive and respond to text messages via a bespoke interface. No personal or library resources are needed other than a computer to connect to the web-based service. For the patron, it is as simple as reserving their books online, pulling up to the library, and text the provider phone number, and a staff member would come to the designated parking spot and deliver the items in a safe manner. It’s that simple.
The text-based nature of Curbside Communicator means the library can be used by any patron with a cell phone, on their schedule. For people that are either unable or unwilling to come into the library, Curbside Communicator can be that final piece of the puzzle that gets them using library materials. From the immunocompromised to the busy parent running kids around, Curbside Communicator has proven its worth.
Gentle Nudge Material Recovery
Libraries provide a crucial service to their communities, but in turn, depend on the patronage of the community to function. Therefore, our Gentle Nudge® process has been designed to meet the unique needs of libraries by effectively working to recover assets while preserving patron dignity and goodwill. Through a proven process of messages, calls, and leveraging the NCOA database, Gentle Nudge is guaranteed to pay for itself in recovered materials whether your library is large or small, fines-free or not.
By using the considered, methodical Gentle Nudge approach, Unique maintains patron goodwill with the library through professional, respectful communication. Libraries maintain control of the account throughout the process, while we handle the legwork of the messaging, freeing up library resources to serve patrons in-person, and not tracking down materials.
“We love the flexibility of the Unique process. We give our patrons plenty of internal notice, but if for any reason they need more time, we can exclude them from being submitted or we can suspend the account using the tools provided by Unique. We have been ecstatic to see nearly $10,000 in materials returned in just our first month back from the COVID downtime with patrons already back and using the library.” –
Donna Heatherington, Circulation Manager at Greenville County Library System
Library E-Media Technology Support
Whether it be downloadable videos, music, e-books, or audiobooks, library circulation is increasingly digital. While that is great news for the tech savvy users, there are some users who could feel alienated or scared of these trends. The good news is there are ways to help connect with and educate this population.
FAQ Pages on Website
A simple idea to reach these users is a device FAQ page. A splendid example is here from the Phoenix Public Library outlining multiple devises, apps, browsers, and software. If a patient needs more help than a self-service website can provide, here is a list of best practices from Unique for successfully providing e-media support.
E-Media Support From Unique
If your library does not have the time or capability to provide such e-media support, Unique’s Patron Services Call Center does have e-media support options. Let our team of trained experts work with the patron and get them comfortable with the new technology and part of the library community.
Spanish Language Section and ESL Activities
For libraries in diverse neighborhoods, adding resources that help non-native English speakers both improve their English ability, as well as providing sections in their native language can be a tremendous benefit.
The United States has over 40 million native Spanish speakers, and that number is growing. By adding Spanish sections to your library, you Spanish speakers in your community a resource that they may have never had access to previously. The ALA even publishes guidelines for Spanish sections. A Spanish section also gives students learning the language real materials outside of their class to expand their abilities, too. Read how libraries in Longview, Texas and Houston added Spanish language sections.
For ESL (English as a Second Language) speakers, classes and activities can also be an invaluable resource for growing their English fluency. This New Jersey library offers in-person ESL programs for adults, in addition to digital resources. Classes and language exchange programs are a place for non-native English speakers to connect with English speakers in their community, with benefits not only for the learners, but for people who volunteer in their local library branch.
Serving the community means serving all the community. With tools from Unique your library can open different avenues to bring in new patrons and better serve existing ones, no matter who they are. All of these things have proven to open the library to more people than before, expand your library’s accessibility with Unique.