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Caruthersville Public Library

Caruthersville Public Library Uses Edge to Position the Library as a Community Technology and E-Government Resource


Location: Caruthersville, Missouri

Peer Group: #2 - Pop. 5,000-15,000

Director: Teresa Tidwell

Key Outcome Areas: Civic and Community Engagement, Education, Health and Safety

“The Edge program, for our library, showed us our strengths, which made me proud – and pointed out some ways to improve.”

Teresa Tidwell, Director

Nearing a century of continued service and civic mindedness, Caruthersville Public Library has used Edge to assess the library’s technology capabilities and make important improvements. This allows the library to be a partner and expand its role as a leader in the community, continuing to deliver on its reputation as the “Lifelong Learning Center of Pemiscot County.”

Caruthersville, like many small libraries, used the initial Edge assessment to gain a sense of where it stood among its peers in terms of services provided to their community members. Seeing where it could improve, the library made key decisions unlocking its potential for tech resources and services, especially in terms of outreach to the community and the content it could offer.

“The Edge program, for our library, showed us our strengths, which made me proud – and pointed out some ways to improve,” said Teresa Tidwell, director of Caruthersville Public Library.

According to Tidwell, Edge recommendations were key in making the decision to step up privacy measures and outreach efforts in order to allow Caruthersville residents to take advantage of their e-government resources.

“We publicized the amount of help we can give patrons on computers, when there was a misunderstanding with some residents who thought they could come in and sit down and we would type in all of their information to get a loan or other application containing social security numbers or banking identification. I announced at the city council meeting that we could not have access to any secure patron information and I posted this on flyers at the computer carousels, as well as having a newspaper story published. There is a much better and clearer understanding now, with both staff and patrons, what we can and cannot do.”

Additionally, Tidwell said that the library stepped up its privacy technology, which allowed residents to feel more comfortable with inputting sensitive information while at the library.

“We have installed privacy screens on one bank of computers, tightened the filters on all of the patron computers, allowing those doing taxes or sensitive information on sites filtered on the regular computers to use a laptop computer. This has worked very well, because this gives them the privacy they need at a table in the library rather than at the bank of computers. We have also added Cybrarian to streamline the sign-in process and regulate what is happening on the computers, knowing who was online at that computer at a certain time something occurred.”

Tidwell also realized that not everyone was solely relying on library technology to access key resources, many people were also bringing their own devices. In order to make sure everyone could access digital materials without worrying about whether they could charge their devices, Tidwell “purchased device chargers for use in various places throughout the library, which has been a positive improvement for our patrons.”

Lifelong Learning Made Easy

Tidwell knows very well that Caruthersville residents do not just use library technology to access necessary government resources, they also use it to further their education on a wide variety of topics. To that end, Caruthersville has made it a priority to add learning resources that are easily accessible by anyone entering the library.

“We have expanded our online databases – adding the DIY/Home Improvement, Hobbies and Crafts, Legal Information, and Small Engine Repair, along with adding Pronunciator for language assistance,” said Tidwell.

Caruthersville Public Library strives to continue to improve these offerings. The library knows that, as a small library, it needs to be creative in how it acquires resources, so it is seeking to leverage strategic partnerships with the city’s business to provide more access for its patrons.

“We hope in the future months to offer Lynda.com for all of our patrons in order for them to receive training on various job-related skills to acquire or improve their employment. (We hope to partner with the city’s largest employers to help pay the bill for this, since it would directly affect them if we had a better-trained workforce.)”

According to Tidwell, the library also hopes to add more human elements in addition to its growing number of technology offerings.

“I am also speaking with a possible part-time employee for the library about offering computer classes on Microsoft Office, Excel, QuickBooks, and other workplace software. We would hope to offer weekly classes with a “live human” to supplement the individualized online coursework with Lynda.com,” said Tidwell.

Caruthersville Public Library will continue to improve based off of recommendations from Edge, made possible with a subscription sponsored by the Missouri State Library, a division of the Missouri Secretary of State. Said Tidwell, “I have benefited from the state subscription to Edge.”