The Free Library of Philadelphia has for years offered the Homebound program as well as email, chat, and text reference services for those who can't access their local library in person, but amidst the COVID-19 pandemic a new option was launched in the form of a brand new call center!
In June of 2020, making it possible for patrons to request assistance, ask questions, and learn about services over the phone, we introduced 1-833-TALKFLP. And the best news? It will continue operating after the Free Library returns to five days of service!
"Offering this single phone line to our patrons is breaking down the barriers that so many of our Philadelphians are experiencing, as many don't yet have full access to their libraries," said Veronica Britto, who heads the call center and acts as the cluster administration for the Central Cluster of neighborhood libraries. "Also, the call center is bridging Philadelphia's ‘digital chasm’ by providing reference, research, and technical assistance over the phone. This project is a welcome addition of ‘contact services’ that we already provide through our e-ref, Text-A-Librarian, and in-person services."
In the thick of the pandemic last summer, Free Library staff acted quickly to recruit and train staff members as part of the Call Center team. Volunteers came from all job classes and titles, with staff members from all around the system pitching in to help their communities remain connected in a new way. When a patron calls, it is routed through a short menu to the staff volunteers, who answer questions about everything from the weather to library cards, and reroute calls to subject departments and experts as necessary. The call center has answered over 21,000 questions since its inception just over 12 months ago.
Congratulations to the hardworking staff who brought this project to life and will keep it going!