Yolo County Library Bolsters Services for Disabled, non-English Speaking, and Rural Communities Using Edge

Yolo County Library
woodland, CA
Population: 146,490
Interim county librarian: chris crist

“Libraries need to be accessible to all people. Part of our core mission is that the library is for everyone. People with disabilities deserve to have as much access as everyone else. I’m fortunate to have a lot of dedicated colleagues who support this vision."

- Elizabeth Gray, Central Services Manager, Yolo County Library

Taking advantage of the free access to computers the library offers, a young man recently visited Yolo County Library. As a future resident of the community, he chose to visit the library to search and apply for apartments in the area. But there was a catch – the man is legally blind.

Some libraries may have stumbled with this real life example, and lacked the services or technology to help him. Thanks to the use of Edge, Yolo County Library has been actively strengthening and developing technology services for all patrons since 2014, including patrons with disabilities. The Edge framework affirmed the work that librarians and support staff were already doing to support access for all.

“Libraries need to be accessible to all people. Part of our core mission is that the library is for everyone,” said Elizabeth Gray, Central Services Manager for Yolo County Library. “People with disabilities deserve to have as much access as everyone else. I’m fortunate to have a lot of dedicated colleagues who support this vision,” she said.

The library partnered with the District Attorney to purchase new computers with assistive technology such as ZoomText Magnifier/Reader by Ai Squared – a fully integrated magnification and reading program tailored for low vision readers. The funding for the new equipment was through a grant provided by AARP.

“The District Attorney’s office approached us about setting up the new computers in the library. I pointed out that this would help us achieve items from our Edge Action Plan and also help the library achieve the national Edge Benchmarks,” said Gray.

For the Deaf and hard of hearing community, the library has meeting rooms equipped with Assisted Listening Devices and provides ASL interpreters for programs. Although the library facilities already followed ADA guidelines, the Edge benchmarks provided extra incentive to ensure workstations go beyond minimum access requirements and accommodate wheelchairs and mobility vehicles.

The improvements Yolo County Library has made in recent years resulted in the library doubling its score for Edge Benchmark 11, which measures how libraries ensure participation in digital technology for people with disabilities. 

When the County Librarian wrote a letter thanking the District Attorney for including the library in the grant, she included information about Edge and the national benchmarks.

In addition to the library using Edge to make improvements for disabled patrons, it also identified ways to improve services and technologies for patrons who don’t speak English.  

“We did a presentation to show the Spanish speaking community how to access online resources that the library and schools offer through mobile devices. More workshops such as this will help raise awareness among our non-English speaking community,” said Gray.

The library also added different language options to the public access computers.

“Thanks to Edge, we have made improvements that allow people to type in Chinese and read documents in Russian,” said Gray. “We purchased the Adobe Asian Language Pack and enabled the language keyboard option.”

In fact, patrons now have language options on the public computers that enable them to type in Chinese (Traditional or Simplified), Russian, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese.

“The great thing about Edge is that it doesn’t just talk about what libraries need to do to better serve their communities. It provides solutions and a plan to make the changes happen,” she said.

The library is also making improvements to the way it serves Yolo County’s more rural communities.

According to Gray, “Edge helped us identify that getting out to the more rural areas of our county to promote technology is critical for improving service to those communities. Having the technology is important, but we also need to help people learn how to use it.”

The library has now set the goal to have 100 percent of staff trained on basic technology, resulting in service improvements for the community. This includes training staff on the new resources that have been added to the library as a result of Edge.

“What if a gentleman comes in that has been a truck driver for 40 years, and for the first time he needs to renew his truck driving certificate online. He’s been driving trucks his entire life and was never required to use the internet,” she said. “This is just one example of someone who visits the library and relies on our staff to help them use technology.”

The library works hard to optimize library services and use technology to its fullest potential. As part of its technology plan, the library created a section on its website for online databases and learning, and included links to coding courses, video editing software, and other cutting edge resources on the public access computers.

“Our technology plan aligns with our strategic plan. Our goal is to have technology that supports the community in ways like providing increased resources supporting lifelong and independent learning, technology training, and job seekers,” she said. “We are using Edge to help us respond to community needs.”

As Yolo County Library continues to use Edge, it learns what it is already doing well and where it can make improvements. This data continues to be incorporated into the future planning of the library in its mission to provide access for all to ideas that inform, entertain, and inspire.

“We used data from our original use of Edge to help us create our tech plan and influence where we should be going. Ongoing staff training, use of technology, workstations for people with visual impairments, and public satisfaction with technology are some of our objectives that reflect what we learned from using Edge,” said Gray.