Wake County Public Libraries becomes first library system in state to earn Sensory Inclusive™ certification

Books on shelf in library

Thanks to a new partnership with KultureCity®, Wake County Public Libraries is now even better equipped to promote an accommodating and positive experience for all library visitors with sensory issues, no matter their age or ability. Today, officials announced that the libraries have received Sensory Inclusive™ certification at a news conference at Southeast Regional Library in Garner.

KultureCity® is a leading nonprofit recognized nationwide for using its resources to revolutionize and effect change in the community for those with sensory needs. Since the program’s inception, KultureCity®has created over 2,000 Sensory Inclusive™ public and private services, organizations, events and venues in six countries. Wake County Public Libraries is the first library system in North Carolina to earn certification, joining local venues like the Raleigh Convention Center and PNC Arena.

"Wake County is committed to fostering environments where everyone feels welcomed and included,” said Wake County Commissioner Tara Waters. “The partnership with KultureCity® underscores our dedication to ensuring that all residents can fully engage with and benefit from our public library system. This certification marks a significant milestone in our journey toward creating a more accessible and inclusive community for all."

Breaking down barriers
Sensory sensitivities or challenges with sensory regulation are often experienced by people with autism, dementia, PTSD and other similar conditions. One of the major barriers for these individuals is sensitivity to overstimulation and noise.

The certification process ensures that Wake County Public Libraries staff are trained by leading medical professionals on how to recognize visitors with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation. All permanent WCPL staff members – totaling more than 450 – have earned certification. Each employee will have to be recertified each year, and certification will be part of the onboarding process for new staff members.

With its certification, Wake County Public Libraries staff are now better prepared to assist visitors with sensory sensitivities in having the most comfortable and accommodating experience possible.

“Our communities shape our lives, and to know that Wake County Public Libraries is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that everyone, no matter their ability, is included in community experiences is amazing,” said Uma Srivastava, executive director, KultureCity®. “We’re honored to partner with Wake County to provide a truly inclusive experience for all clients.”

What you’ll see at the library
Each of Wake County’s 23 libraries has been provided with Sensory Inclusive signage, weighted lap pads, and sensory bags that contain noise-canceling headphones, fidget tools, visual cue cards, feeling thermometers and a KultureCity® VIP lanyard to create a welcoming experience.

Prior to their visit, families and individuals can download the free KultureCity® app, which shows which sensory features are available and where they can access them, including how to get a KultureCity® Sensory Bag. The app also includes the Social Story, which provides a customized preview of what to expect while visiting the library.

Some new programs are also planned in concert with the certification.

  • Sensory Storytime: All the fun of our traditional storytimes with elements to engage children who may find the regular programs to be overwhelming — like smaller audiences, lower volumes and sensory kits with headphones and fidgets.
  • Drop-in Sensory Events: School-aged children and teens are invited to stop by and play with sand bins, sensory toys and more.
  • Music in the Library: Enjoy an afternoon of song and performance from the Every Voice Choir. The next performance is at 3 p.m. Saturday at Oberlin Regional Library.
  • Music Therapy: Join a board-certified music therapist to work toward improving communication, cognitive, sensorimotor and social skills. This engaging program uses evidence-based techniques to improve developmental skills.

But Sensory Inclusive™ certification ensures that the accepting, inclusive experience isn’t limited to special programs.

“Our library system now operates with an awareness about sensory needs in everything we do,” said Connie Brandt, senior library manager for programming. “We have a trained staff who can offer tools to help people experience the library in a way that works for them. It’s become a place they can come and enjoy just as they are.”

Learn more about Wake County Public Libraries at wake.gov/libraries.

Press Release