Washoe County Library System Outlines New Technology Plan, Improves Approach to Digital Literacy with Edge

WASHOE COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM
RENO, NV
POPULATION: 421,600
LIBRARY DIRECTOR: JEFF SCOTT

“Edge has always been a useful process – it has always been ahead of the innovation that my libraries needed. It gives us the basic level we need to be at, but also pushes libraries to look forward, focusing on innovation and the future.”

- Jeff Scott, Library Director, Washoe County Library System

Spread across an area of approximately 6,600 square miles, Washoe County covers a large and geographically diverse area – including desert terrain and mountain ranges.

Along its eastern border is Black Rock Desert. Well known as the site of Burning Man, thousands of visitors journey through Washoe County to attend the annual festival that is described as an experiment in community and art.

In the southern part of the county, along the slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, is the Reno-Sparks Metropolitan Area. Serving as the home of Tesla’s new Gigafactory, it is responsible for supplying batteries to meet the increased demand for electric vehicles.

“We have things in this community that are very advanced like Burning Man,” said Jeff Scott, library director for Washoe County Library System. “The library works to provide opportunities for innovation, including opportunities to complement the new manufacturers moving to the area.”

Thanks to the support of the Nevada State Library, Archives and Public Records, the library used Edge to build its new technology plan, focusing on improving digital literacy in the communities it serves.

“One of the most important things Edge did for our library was provide a framework for us to create our new technology plan, which is based on the Edge Benchmarks,” Scott said. “Edge gives libraries a good idea of where they should be and what things to consider when planning – replacing computers, ensuring staff technology training and providing technology classes for all that visit the library.”

Staff Technology Training

In addition to planning, Washoe County Library System used Edge to identify necessary improvements to its technology training and computer classes. To improve digital literacy throughout the community, Scott implemented new staff training requirements.

“If we launch any new technology initiative, all staff are required to be trained – they must complete a course conducted by our master trainers,” Scott said. “This way, every staff member is familiar with the new technology and can support users or troubleshoot when any problems come up.”

After completing its second Edge Assessment, Washoe County Library System showed a 37.5 percent improvement on Edge Benchmark 8, which covers libraries having sufficient staff technology expertise to assist patrons.

“We want all staff to have a basic competency for all technologies offered at the library,” Scott said. “All staff should be able to answer 90 percent of technology questions, allowing us to better serve our community.”

The improvement in its Edge Assessment Results is proof of the hard work the library has done in recent years. With improved knowledge and skills among library staff, it could now focus on diversifying class options and offer more advanced options.

Innovative Offerings

In addition to staff training, the library’s master trainers also work directly with library patrons, including participants that attend technology classes or the new coding camps the library offers.

“Coding camps are a direct result from using Edge and looking at more opportunities for innovative technology training,” said Scott. “Some of the work children in the coding camps are producing is impressive and continues to improve by leaps and bounds. We are also working to build a Maker Network.”

With the influx of innovative opportunities and new jobs coming to the area, one of the library’s goals is to create a ‘maker network’ – a community of people that use 3-D printers – to support this type of learning activity in the community.

“It’s good to know that we are doing great work locally by supporting the learning of makers,” said Scott. “They take what they learn here and go to events like Burning Man and share that knowledge. It could be something as simple yet innovative as making a harmonica to play music.”

The library also offers patrons a robust collection of digital resources, including eBooks and language learning options, on its 260 public computers, 120 laptops and 50 tablets.

Washoe County Library System maximized its subscription to Edge, focusing on how it can help improve digital literacy for the entire community through its new technology plan, including improved staff technology training and more innovative offerings for patrons.

“Edge has always been a useful process – it has always been ahead of the innovation that my libraries needed,” added Scott. “It gives us the basic level we need to be at, but also pushes libraries to look forward, focusing on innovation and the future.”