Guthrie Public Library (OK) Uses Edge to Enhance Digital Literacy

Guthrie Public Library
Logan County, OK
Population: 44,400
Director: Cynthia O

 

Key Results – Edge Helped Guthrie Public Library:

  • Address digital literacy by providing training sessions and resources for the community
  • Engage and excite staff in providing new and enhanced services for library users
  • Engage with City and County officials and engage the community

Project Summary

Located in the center of Oklahoma, the City of Guthrie is the county seat for Logan County. Guthrie is a small community with approximately 10,000 residents; however the Guthrie Public Library serves Logan County’s population of more than 40,000. According to the Library Director, Cynthia O, a large proportion of residents in Logan County have limited access to technology and the internet. 

“Logan County is quite rural and communications infrastructure is minimal in many areas,” she said. “The biggest challenge our community has is digital literacy followed by economic constraints limiting ownership and use of technology outside the library.”

To Cynthia, participating in the Edge Initiative was a “no-brainer.” Once she reviewed the benchmarks and the goals of the Initiative, she immediately connected the dots and concluded that this work would benefit her community.

“Upon first hearing about the Edge Initiative, I was interested and tried to keep an open mind about what we might discover although I was optimistic that we would realize positive impacts.  Our actual experience with Edge was very informative, enlightening, and inspiring,” she said.  “Edge gave us a snapshot of where our library stood.  We were able to see our strengths and weaknesses within the framework of a national benchmarking standard.  It was very encouraging to see that we were on the right track in many areas.  And Edge is such a thorough tool; it really opens your eyes to the possibilities and potential of your library.  Even though we had to say “no” to many of the indicators, we saw that we could do a lot of these things and that in itself was very exciting and motivating.”

From the library’s Edge results, Cynthia wanted to address digital literacy needs in various ways that were highlighted in the benchmarks:

  • One-on-one computer tutoring opportunities,
  • Regularly scheduled mobile device classes,
  • A robust collection of online guides and tutorials, and
  • Early literacy electronic tables for children to use in the library

“We have enacted all of these services except the online resources, which we are still developing with the help of the resources Edge compiled and designated for that Action Item in our Action Plan[1]. Edge also identified that we have fairly low device hours per capita.  This finding, paired with the phenomenal resources available through use of the Executive Tool, will help us make our case for more computers,” she said.

The Impact of Edge on Staff and Community

To address the county communications infrastructure, Cynthia and her staff are excited about implementing a bookmobile service to provide materials to the outlying areas, and also serve as a mobile hotspot where people can meet library personnel in their own neighborhood and take advantage of the Wi-Fi that is so often not available any other way.   

From gathering data for the Edge assessment to engaging the library’s small staff, Edge proved to be beneficial. The six-member staff worked together to complete Edge, evaluate their results, and attend training sessions. This essentially was a team-building opportunity that gave each member of the library’s staff a “bolt of enthusiasm,” Cyndi said.

“The training that Edge provides is of the highest quality, with opportunities to brainstorm with and get ideas from other libraries across the country,” she said.  “This free training is a huge benefit, especially to smaller libraries that don’t have a big budget for professional development.”

Their excitement turned into brainstorming sessions to determine next steps and outline new or improved ways of providing service and engaging with customers on a daily basis. A challenge Edge highlighted for the Guthrie Public Library was the lack of regular computer training courses.  This wasn’t anything new to Cyndi and her staff. They were well aware of it, but with Edge, the issue was brought front-and-center. 

“Because we have limited staff, we formulated a plan to recruit teen volunteers – recommended by their teachers – to meet one-on-one with our customers who need computer training,” Cyndi said.  “We provide training to the teens (along with letters of recommendation and/or certificates for college entrance when they graduate from high school), link the teens and the customers who need help, and evaluate and refine the process as it develops.”

Not to Cyndi’s surprise, the library scored a little over half of the maximum possible points for the assessment. This did not deter the team. In fact, they were even more determined and motivated about the possibilities and potential of the library. Cyndi and her team had work to do. They prioritized using the Edge action plan, and by the end of 2013, the library’s customers had a more enthusiastic staff to help them, there is now more community engagement, a more robust computer training system is in place, and quarterly health and financial classes are being offered - with more to come!

“We presented our Edge results and our plans to improve our services to the City Manager and staff, the City Council and Library Board, and the Chamber of Commerce constituents and received their full support,” Cyndi said. “And every chance we get, we try to share Edge information with our regular customers, community leaders, and citizens. Edge has helped us to outline where the library is aiming and our customers better understand what we are trying to accomplish.”

Small libraries get great results!

For a small library, Cyndi says, the Edge Initiative is an exciting and empowering tool.  Naturally, small libraries (maybe even most libraries) are constrained by funding and many times staffing levels. This should not be the deciding factor in participation. Small libraries should use Edge to highlight the potential of the library and get ideas and options for how to improve services. 

“Edge is very valuable to libraries- especially small libraries that may lack adequate funding, staffing, and training.  The time investment to complete the assessment, review the results, and attend the training classes is certainly worth it.  Libraries and library staff are in the business of helping and empowering our communities- Edge helps and empowers us to do just that,” Cyndi said. “Do not be discouraged. Look at your results, get creative with solutions, and have fun!”


[1] Edge provides libraries with recommendations, tools, and resources to continuously plan for the future to meet the needs of the community. Some of these tools include a customizable action plan or list of priorities the library plans to address in the long and short term and executive tools to help library leaders engage with key stakeholders.