As libraries reopen, finding ways to reduce face-to-face interaction will minimize the risk of spreading disease for both library workers and patrons. From managing curbside pickup to integrating printer payment systems that minimize cash transactions, these platforms and apps are helping libraries improve their services during the pandemic.
Unique’s Curbside Communicator automates curbside pickups for holds and creates a simple communication link between patrons and library staff to facilitate the process. Rather than requiring patrons to reserve a time slot in advance, Curbside Communicator allows patrons to arrive anytime during designated hours and use their mobile devices to check in and provide basic information.
Patrons place a hold as usual and, when the hold is ready for pickup, receive instructions to visit a web portal or text a number provided by Unique (assigned to each library) when they are ready to retrieve items. This process can be integrated with Unique’s MessageBee email automation service for hold pickup notices; for libraries that don’t use the service, curbside pickup instructions must be added manually to their existing hold pickup notice emails.
The pickup process doesn’t require patrons to download an app, and the text message option allows communication without an internet connection. Unique suggests posting instructions in the curbside pickup area and provides templates for signs. Once a patron arrives and checks in, they receive automatic prompts for basic information as set by the library for each branch, which can include name, library card number, parking space, and car model. That information is then relayed to the Curbside Communicator system, which, depending on the library’s preferences, sends an email notification to staff or displays the information in the web-based admin panel where library staffers can also send chat messages to patrons. To ensure privacy, conversations are deleted after the pickup has occurred.
Curbside Communicator is $50 per month for the first location and $40 for each additional branch in the same system, with a one-time setup fee of $295 that covers up to four locations (more locations incur additional fees). The first 1,500 text messages each month are included in the cost, with no additional charge for messages sent through the web app.
For more information, visit uniquelibrary.com/curbside-communicator.
Princh is a cloud-based self-service printing and payment platform designed to save time and reduce patron–staff interactions. Patrons send documents to library printers from their own devices using the Princh mobile app or a web browser. For public computers, the company offers software that integrates the Princh payment system.
To print from a mobile device, patrons download the Princh app, import the document they want to print to the app, and then choose the library printer. The mobile app includes a map of nearby Princh-enabled printers. Laptop printing is browser-based, and no installation is required. For added security, print jobs can be automatically assigned a PIN to release them at the printer.
Supported payment methods include debit and credit cards, PayPal, and cash. When patrons want to pay in cash, a library staffer can release the print job through the Princh administration panel. The panel also allows staff to resend failed print jobs and cancel or refund payments. For free print jobs, libraries can set a password to enter on the payment screen.
Princh runs on existing printers and server; setup takes about 15 minutes and can be done by library staff or remotely by Princh. If a library doesn’t have a dedicated server, the service can be run on a networked laptop or PC with a reliable internet connection.
Princh mobile service starts at $249 per year and $599 per year for mobile and public PC printing together. The fee includes installation, staff training, support, electronic payment setup, updates and upgrades, and promotional materials. Libraries are also charged a per-transaction fee for electronic payments. Payments for print jobs are stored by the company and deposited to the library quarterly. Princh is offering its mobile printing service for free to ALA members through the end of 2020. For more information, visit princh.com/covid-19-offer.
LIBRO on the Go
User: Kimberly Olivares, administrative and project specialist, Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library in Zionsville, Indiana
Description: LIBRO is a mobile app that syncs with a library’s integrated library system (ILS) and offers curbside pickup management and voice assistant features.
How do you use LIBRO?
We purchased LIBRO to help with curbside pickup when we reopened the building in late May, with the intention to add more services by integrating our ILS.
How does LIBRO serve your library’s needs?
Prior to implementing LIBRO, we were essentially forcing our room reservation software to work as a curbside pickup reservation system. It was functional but very cumbersome for our staff and patrons. Once we installed LIBRO, our patrons and staff made the transition almost seamlessly. LIBRO makes the workflow for our staff easy, and the developers are constantly adding new functions in response to our requests.
What are the main benefits? This is the best software implementation process I have ever experienced, by far. The team at LIBRO has been incredibly responsive and eager to get our feedback. The patrons are loving the experience and are overwhelmingly positive about the convenience and safety of curbside pickup. The staff have adapted quickly to the new system as well. Once our ILS is integrated with LIBRO, we anticipate staff and patron satisfaction to continue to grow. The added benefit of voice search on smartphones and home electronics is exciting and supports patrons with a variety of impairments while offering convenience for everyone.
What would you like to see improved or added to the app/service? We are eager for the ability to check out a patron’s holds with the click of a button within the LIBRO staff interface. This will significantly reduce staff time and the need to handle each item. We also look forward to offering a self-checkout option that allows patrons to use their smartphones to scan and check out without the need to visit our circulation desk or existing self-check stations. This will reduce contact with surfaces tremendously. People are more and more comfortable with “self-check” or “scan and buy” options since the start of the pandemic. This will add another option to keep patrons safe if they choose to use it. Our staff will always be available for questions or assistance, but by offering these technology solutions we can increase meaningful interactions with patrons and move away from just processing transactions.