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El Progreso Memorial Library

El Progreso Memorial Library: Edge Changes Library, Library Changes Lives

“Edge gives you an outside, independent way to look at your operations and set benchmarks. If you don’t have a plan, you don’t have a way to get there.”

Mendell D. Morgan, Jr., Library Director

Edge serves as a crucial springboard for El Progreso Memorial Library’s long-term planning, and as a key tool in helping the library secure additional funding. Using Edge, EPML obtained an IMLS technology grant, enabling the library to add flat-screen TVs, iPads and a 3-D printer to the library. The addition of a 3-D printer has made an especially powerful impact on the community, not only allowing patrons to explore cutting-edge technology, but also empowering them to print devices to help them overcome challenges presented by physical disabilities.

In 1903, a group of visionary women aimed to create a space for self and civic improvement, leading to the foundation of El Progreso Club, which became the first public library in Uvalde, TX. Now known as El Progreso Memorial Library, this 501(c)(3) library has always considered itself as a progressive model for library services with strong local support in rural Southwest Texas.

Library Director Mendell D. Morgan, Jr. understood that in order for the library to remain progressive, he would need to continue updating the technology the library offered. He used Edge to obtain an IMLS technology grant offered by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), allowing him to add flat-screen TVs, iPads, and a 3-D printer to the library’s growing roster of offerings.

“Edge helped our library to refocus, see where we are, and what are some things we can do,” he said.

While patrons may have access to iPads and flat-screen TVs at home, access to a 3-D printer was a new and unique experience for the community. Morgan considered the 3-D printer as the “most exciting and challenging resource.” Despite the excitement surrounding the library offering the 3-D printer, Morgan did not expect it to have a life changing impact on 7-month-old Elijah Gonzalez.

Elijah was born with only one arm. Using plans found at Enabling The Future, physical therapist Adrian Vega worked with the library to use the newly acquired 3-D printer to create an assistive device designed to last Elijah through his toddler years.

The assistive device enables Elijah to better develop muscles and arm functionality, preparing him for a replacement bionic arm in the future. Without Vega’s vision and El Progreso Memorial Library’s 3-D printer, Elijah would lack the appropriate upper body strength to continue normal development.

Morgan did not imagine the impact the 3-D printer would have on patrons’ lives. At first, he thought people would visit the library to use the new printer to make little replacement pieces or knick-knacks for crafts and hobbies. Thanks to Edge and TSLAC, he has now seen firsthand the life-changing effect technology can have on his community.

“I think it is just about the most important thing I have ever done as part of my career,” he said. “It shows how libraries impact and change lives.”

As a result of Elijah’s story, additional companies and organizations have inquired about the 3-D printer.

“We’re all fighting for the dollar, and the more you can show you’re doing something that is an economic generator, the more attention you will get for support,” said Morgan.

Using Edge as a “springboard” for future planning, Morgan said it helped him focus on things he hadn’t previously thought about, allowing him to evaluate the library’s current offerings and see what else they can do.

As Morgan continues to use Edge, it continues to show him opportunities where he can create a plan to improve lives of people in the community.

“Edge gives you an outside, independent way to look at your operations and set benchmarks,” he said. “If you don’t have a plan, you don’t have a way to get there.”