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Barton County Library

Barton County Library Recognizes the Value of Edge for Small Libraries and Digital Literacy

"While we always want to improve, we have to consider the staff time and money involved in making improvements. Edge is designed to help your library plan and focus on what is best for the community you serve and plan how to get the biggest bang for your buck.”

Carol Darrow, Director

Similar to many other small libraries across North America, Barton County Library used Edge to assess its technology and plan for the future. In fact, many libraries that participate in Edge serve communities of less than 15,000 residents.

The library recognized the value of using Edge to make improvements for the community, and started the process by creating an Edge Project Team.

“While we always want to improve, we must consider the staff time and money involved in making improvements,” said Carol Darrow, Barton County Library Director. “Edge is designed to help your library plan and focus on what is best for the community you serve and plan how to get the biggest bang for your buck.”

Darrow had all members of the Edge Project Team complete the Edge Assessment to see how the responses were similar or different, then facilitated a discussion about the findings.

“There were times we noticed we scored things differently, leading to a review and conversations about why our responses differed,” said Darrow. “After we received our results, we discussed them together and decided how to create our Edge Action Plan. Each person shared their top 12 ideas for improvements.”

The library aimed to maximize its impact with the least financial commitment. It used Edge to identify quick, easy improvements to benefit the community.

“During an Edge Live Office Hours I attended, I was reminded that the Edge Resources are connected to each of the items on the library’s Edge Action Plan. The Edge Resources showed us ways that we could update our website to offer more online resources for our patrons,” she said.

To meet the Edge Benchmarks, the library now provides online resources to assist patrons in the areas of eGovernment, health, legal, jobs and languages. It also offers resources for small businesses and test preparation.

Technology and Digital Literacy
While using Edge, the library was awarded a Technology Mini Grant for $9,543 from the Missouri State Library. This allowed it to purchase 10 patron computers, its first Wi-Fi printer and a portable projector with two screens for improved multimedia presentations and technology training.

“The information we received after submitting our Edge Assessment was helpful when applying for the grant,” said Director of Information Technology Trent Roby. “The Wi-Fi printer is great and it allows for installation on patron devices – from Windows and Macs to Android and iOS devices. We had seen this as an Edge Recommendation, so we decided to apply for the grant to receive the necessary funding to purchase it.”

The library also used Edge to gauge its current approaches to improve digital literacy in the community.

“Participating in Edge was a good indicator for us to see and learn how we compare to other libraries our size,” said Darrow. “I had no doubts we’d do well with technology or assisting our patrons because our staff is awesome, but it did help us think outside of the box.”

The library offers learning opportunities for patrons to improve digital literacy including classes on social media, email and Microsoft products or more advanced classes that cover website design and java programming.

“We often have community businesses and city officials come to the library and participate in our classes to update their skills,” said Darrow. “The community officials seem to enjoy our more advanced Excel and Word classes.”

The library partners with community organizations such as the chamber of commerce and the city of Lamar, improving their knowledge about the programs and the availability of technology at the library. It is also initiating a new e-Card partnership with the local school district. The e-Cards will give students access to all of the digital materials, use of the computers and access to Wi-Fi when visiting the library.

“Not all of Barton County is well equipped with internet and Wi-Fi. I have kids, and I know how much they rely on accessing the internet for their homework,” said Darrow. “This e-Card initiative is something important for us to begin working on, and we are looking forward to a formal process.”

The library also offers “Tech Q&A”. This scheduled, one-on-one technology training allows patrons to bring in their own device to receive help with setting up it up or even guidance for using the device to checkout eBooks.

“Staff do one-on-one training with patrons every day when it comes to technology,” said Darrow. “Patrons frequently ask for assistance on the public computers or their personal devices. This allows advanced planning.”

Thanks to the Missouri State Library, Barton County Library participated in Edge as part of a small cohort of libraries from the state.

“Edge is a good step-by-step program to let you approach updating your technology,” said Darrow. “It lets you start with an assessment, review your results, make a plan and then one by one start achieving your goals.”