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Clinton Public Library

Fostering a Digital-Savvy Staff to Serve the Public

We report weekly to the city council about the activities in each city department. We used the Edge platform to share information about the library and how we focused all of 2020 on fostering a more tech-savvy staff.

Susan Mesecher, Director

Clinton Public Library serves about 26,000 people in East Central Iowa. Set right alongside the Mississippi River, the library borders Illinois and sees high traffic since it sits at the base of the Highway 30 bridge. The library is part of the Clinton County Association of Public Libraries and the Rivershare Library System. The Edge team connected with CPL Director Susan Mesecher to learn more about the library's work with Edge to meet the digital needs of their staff and community. Read her responses below.

How would you describe your community’s culture and current challenges?

Clinton is home to large industry with ADM, Nestlè Purina and LyondellBasell plants located within the city limits. There are many trade skill jobs available and not many skilled workers to fill them. We have around 9,000 workers who travel to Clinton for work but do not live here. Our city's goal is to attract more of those people to live here in Clinton. We are seeing new housing developments, gut rehabs and demolition of blighted housing.

In Clinton:

  • 74% of our residents have broadband.
  • 81% have a home computer.
  • 6% are unemployed.
  • 81% receive free or reduced lunch.
  • 17% are below poverty.
  • 89% have a high school diploma or higher education.
  • 5,000 are of school age.

What key outcomes and milestones has your library achieved using Edge?

We had three staff work on the Edge Assessment together at the end of 2019. When we shared the results with the library board, we all agreed that our top focus for 2020 would be staff digital expertise. We used staff development days to have staff practice using our online resources and held demonstrations on navigating our website and digital book collection. We purchased Niche Academy to help with the training of our staff. Although we didn't progress to the level we had hoped, it was only because of the pandemic closures and changes to the library. We still have this goal that we continue to work towards.

How has the library used Edge to engage local government and community leaders?

We report weekly to the City Council about the activities in each city department. We used the Edge platform to share information about the library and how we focused all of 2020 on fostering a more tech-savvy staff.

Speaking of 2020, how did your library pivot during the pandemic to continue meeting the community's digital needs?

The Clinton Public Library closed on March 18, 2020 by the request of the mayor and we didn’t reopen to the public until June 17, 2020. In November 2020, we closed again and reopened later on December 7, 2020.

During building closures, we continued to update our website and social media pages with added online content. For example, Youth Services staff created online storytimes to be shared on our social media, and the Youth Services Librarian started our first online summer reading program using the BookPoints open source platform. In February 2020 we made Love Your Library videos.

We've also been fortunate to receive offers for free access to many online databases that we couldn't afford to pay for normally. We are able to offer our patrons access to these databases through the month of April, and some until August.

On August 10, 2020 our city was hit by the Derecho. Thankfully our two buildings were not damaged. Our Lyons Branch didn’t have power for a week after the Derecho but the Carnegie Branch had power and we hosted people that didn’t have power or internet access. Staff created many extra areas for people to plug in their devices and use our Wi-Fi while trying to maintain social distancing.

Has Edge helped your library receive additional funding or resources? Please explain.

Our library board encouraged us to purchase tools to help our staff feel more comfortable using our online resources. We purchased iPads, Kindle Fires and the Niche Academy online tutorials for the public and a staff academy where we track the learning of our staff.

How has Edge helped your library strengthen its strategic planning and staff development?

At the start of 2020 we had the Edge 2.0 goals in mind for staff technology competence. We had no idea we would all be thrust into our goal head-on for most of the year!

In 2020, we used a staff scheduling platform to keep in touch with staff (especially those who have been sent home) and staff learned to use Google Sheets for curbside appointments and Google Calendar for library scheduling. Library Senior staff hosted the library board of directors meeting online using Microsoft Teams and all nine board members were able to attend successfully.

Also last year, we signed up for Niche Academy after our Edge results showed us that the majority of our staff had little experience using technology to help the public. After our trial with Niche Academy, we will now have subscription access for video tutorials for the public ranging from how to use our databases and download an e-book to creating a Gmail account. I'm proud to say not only are staff more comfortable helping the public, but they are now making their own videos to promote programs!