Located midway between Calgary and Edmonton, Red Deer is a city of 100,000 in Alberta, Canada. The Red Deer Public Library was one of the first four libraries to be established under the Libraries Act of Alberta and today serves the community from three branches.
Communication for a library built on collaboration
In addition to the main downtown branch, the Red Deer Public Library operates two branches in partnership with community organizations. The Dawe branch, located in the GH Dawe Community Center, provides library service to North Red Deer as well as school library service to Catholic school students. The Timberlands Branch, opened in 2014, was built in partnership with Red Deer Public Schools as part of the new Timberlands school and serves as a combination school and public library.
“We serve a diverse community of families and seniors,” says Candice Putnam, Brand Manager. “Our school branches allow us to build a great relationship with the kids.”
As a mid-sized city, Red Deer Library maintains a personal small-town vibe while implementing marketing and digital presence practices more common to larger cities. During the pandemic, the library overhauled its website to provide a more modern user experience. Once that project was complete, they turned their attention to improving their in-library digital communications.
Red Deer already had some digital signage – one screen in the Timberlands branch and two in the Dawe Community Center branch, but the process for broadcasting on those screens was laborious at best. Putnam had to create the presentations on Google Slides and then have someone at each location manually set up the slideshow on each device. The laptop in the community center couldn’t run a presentation from the internet, so the slides had to be downloaded directly to the device.
“I would prepare some slides for each month, but as the month got underway, the programs that had already happened were still being promoted,” says Putnam. “There was no way to reschedule anything. It was very, very tedious.”
Putnam heard about Bibliotheca’s uniFi+ library communications solution from a staff member who’d been introduced to it in Europe, where it has been on the market for years. Already a happy Bibliotheca customer, Red Deer Library became the first Canadian library to implement the solution.
Multiple messages, multiple screens, one central hub
uniFi+ allows libraries to engage users with in-library digital displays that inform, educate, and delight. Easy-to-use templates and multi-screen functionality make it simple to promote programs and share important information across any screen of the entire library system. Messages can be scheduled to broadcast to all screens or specific devices within individual library buildings, and interactive screen options offer opportunities to engage library visitors with quizzes, polls, and wayfinding. Best of all, staff can manage all content from a central hub.
“One of my favorite features is that I can control all communications from my office or even my home computer,” says Putnam. “Once I log on, I can control it from anywhere.”
uniFi+ allows promotions to be pushed to virtually any library screen, including traditional digital display screens as well as public PCs, remoteLocker™ screens, and idle selfChecks. This capability allowed Red Deer to promote library programs and services in a unique space – a pop-up branch in a local shopping mall.
“We wanted to raise awareness about the library and reach new potential members on the other side of town,” says Putnam. “We promoted the mall pop-upbranch on our website, social media, and of course, on our digital signage. However, the big focus was to have people happen upon the library while they were shopping and use that experience and the promotions on the selfCheck there to steer them toward one of our permanent branches. It’s been a six-month project, and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback.”
Red Deer broadcasts important library communications to all screens but also tailors specific promotions to individual locations. To capitalize on the unique features of uniFi+, the library installed four large digital displays throughout the main library branch.
“The main library was the one location without digital signage, but now we can broadcast children’s content in the children’s area, run promotions in the fiction and non-fiction section, and grab the attention of anyone standing at the circulation desk,” says Putnam. “The scheduling feature is key because it eliminates the huge problem I had with out-of-date slides.”
Content creation for everyone
Not only is scheduling messages simple, but designing content for uniFi+ is also a snap. The integrated content creation tool allows users to combine text, images, and video into professional, eye-catching displays, but pre-created templates can also be easily uploaded. The ability to repurpose content is a major time-saver for Putnam. The Red Deer Library marketing team is small, and she creates most of the graphics for the website and social media herself.
“I already make so many different graphics for our website. Now, when I make a graphic for an upcoming project, I just upload it and use that image for uniFi+. It’s really nice because using the same graphics makes everything look streamlined and on brand, and it makes my life so much easier,” she says.
The simple user interface and central control hub also makes it possible to get more of the staff involved with marketing communications.
“It’s so easy to share the projects I’m working on,” says Putnam. “Anyone can go in and edit a promotion or add another message. It’s super simple – you choose your presentation, , add your media, schedule it, and you’re done. One of the good things about uniFi+ is that it doesn’t really matter if you are a small one-person marketing team, a program director doing promotions yourself, or a large multi-branch team with dozens of people. You can control it from any location, and any number of people can contribute.”
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