Greensboro Public Library Uses Edge to Better Train and Position Staff to Provide Enhanced Technology Services to the Community

GREENSBORO PUBLIC LIBRARY
GREENSBORO, N.C.
POPULATION: 395,174
DIRECTOR: BRIGITTE BLANTON

“We see ourselves and our branches as pillars in the community, to which customers and members of the community come to help further develop themselves in their use of technology.” - Brian Hart, Deputy Director, Greensboro Public Library

As part of its 100-year history of service and innovation, Greensboro Public Library has used Edge to assess the library’s technology offerings and make strategic decisions. This allows the library to be a partner and expand its role as a leader in the community in terms of technology.  

“We see ourselves and our branches as pillars in the community, to which customers and members of the community come to help further develop themselves in their use of technology,” said Brian Hart, deputy director of GPL.

Initially, GPL used data from the Edge Assessment to evaluate and compare the library’s technology offerings to similarly sized libraries. With that information, the library made key discoveries about its potential for expanding tech resources and services, particularly noting that staff were being underutilized in meeting the community’s technology needs.

According to Hart, an Edge Recommendation to provide more individualized technology services was key in driving the library’s progress.

“It was like an ‘aha’ moment for us as we made our way through the last assessment,” he said. “We realized that some of our reference library and information service staff at the central location were definitely providing these types of one-on-one interactions and trainings with customers, but staff across the system had not really taken the liberty to do that, and we wanted to encourage them to do it.”

Library leaders realized that GPL staff are the primary contact for community members seeking tech resources and training, and that fostering greater tech competency among staff would create new possibilities for enhancing tech offerings. 

“We need to support and develop our staff in the areas of technology so that they become comfortable and confident in leading and facilitating those interactions with customers,” said Hart.

To that end, GPL established an Edge Project Team to implement new initiatives, and developed the Green L.I.T.E. (Learning and Integrating Technology Efficiently) survey and initiative to learn about their staff’s technology capabilities and interests. The Project Team also saw the initiative as a way to get their colleagues excited about the opportunity to learn and provide greater tech related services and support to the community.

According to Hart, Green L.I.T.E. was established with a two-pronged purpose. “The first prong is to gain a better understanding of staff competency and skill levels as it relates to technology. The second is to increase our awareness of the technology related needs and interests of the community so that we may offer the best classes, programs and services to help meet those needs and provide customers with a clearer path and a ‘greenlight’ to go and make their dreams a reality,” said Hart.

Tech Navigators
Another key initiative developed by GPL’s Edge Project Team to better train and utilize staff in providing tech services is the Library’s Tech Navigators program. Using Edge resources and data, this dynamic initiative prepares staff across GPL’s branches to provide one-on-one technology consultations with customers.

Typically lasting 30 minutes, Tech Navigator sessions reflect a significant staff investment in providing meaningful, individualized support to community members, and helping them become more comfortable with technology.

“We now offer one-on-one assistance on a variety of topics. However, the majority of our customers’ requests pertain to online job searches and leisure activities such as establishing and navigating social media accounts,” said Hart.

The program also benefits GPL staff, expanding their understanding and engagement with contemporary technology issues.

Tech Open Houses
Along with its expansion of individualized services, GPL used Edge to launch a series of Tech Open Houses to provide opportunities for staff and customers to explore, discuss and learn about library technology.

“The open houses provide customers of all ages and backgrounds opportunities to connect with staff and learn about GPL technology offerings,” said Hart.

More than 170 community members attended GPL’s first round of Tech Open Houses held in February 2018, which featured Tech Navigator sessions, 3-D printing tutorials and demonstrations of technology learning tools like Makey Makey and Raspberry Pi.

Along with GPL staff, the library’s Edge Project Team attended each open house to connect with the community and learn about their needs and interests.

“The open houses empowered staff and customers to explore technology by sharing, learning and interacting with technology and each other,” said Hart.

Following the success of the initial open house, GPL scheduled installments in May and September, which will devote more time for customers to share feedback about what they are learning and would like to experience.

Moving forward, GPL will continue expanding its Tech Navigators and Tech Open House programs, and develop its tech offerings and customer relationships. The library cites the guidance provided by Edge as being critical to that goal.

“Having access to the different resources provided by Edge has helped us maintain a focused approach as we continue to increase our technology related programs and services for the community,” said Hart.