The title alone lets you know that this going to be a pretty hip blog post, right? And just look at the pretty logo over there…signs of good things to come! Edge is the name of an exciting initiative that is coming soon to a library near you. Earlier this year, WebJunction joined the Edge initiative, a coalition of 13 organizations working together to compile a set of benchmarks for public access computing in libraries (check out the press release). The intent of these benchmarks is to help ensure that all communities continue to have quality computer and Internet access at public libraries. One thing is clear about this work—it’s no small task! Public access computing is such a core resource in libraries, but the needs of the individual libraries and their respective communities vary greatly (queue the dramatic, challenging music).
I am sure this is a bit of preaching to the choir, but high-quality access to technology in public libraries is critical for people to succeed in today’s world. Without access to the information and opportunities that exist online, some people in this country will not be able to do homework, look for employment, obtain health and wellness information or connect with their government, community or civic organizations. Libraries have taken on a critical role in many communities to provide access to these services, but we also know that there is room to improve. Sometimes we need a little help to make our case for the importance of these services, both internally and with stakeholders. That’s where the benchmarks come in.
These benchmarks will be the examples of high quality services and offerings that help to improve the lives of patrons and the communities that libraries serve. We’ve been collecting feedback from coalition members and also working closely with the library field, local decision makers and community leaders to create benchmarks that are relevant, actionable and that can align with local community priorities. The work to date has included hundreds of hours spent pouring through data, reading reports, conducting focus groups and synthesizing all of the information into a usable resource – and we’re not done yet.
The project will soon be launching at pilot sites in several states and will be available for broader public use later in 2012. One of the key elements of participating in the benchmarks is an assessment that a library will complete. In some cases, the assessment results will shine a light on a library that is doing great work and should be recognized. In other cases, a library may be able to use the assessment to acknowledge that there are areas that could use improvements. The benchmarks will also include a wealth of information and resources that can be used to help advocate for public access computing improvements to local funders and decision makers. We’re going to give you the tools to help implement ideas and find out how to make improvements that will have an impact.
Now this is clearly a bit a teaser, because we’re not quite ready to share the actual benchmarks just yet…there’s more cooking going on in the kitchen, and we’re a bunch of picky chefs. But, we’re looking forward to bringing you more details as work on the Edge initiative progresses – stay tuned!