As a mover and shaker in its communities, Forsyth County Public Library relies on Edge as a resource to manage and support the library’s technology. Beginning with its first Edge Assessment in 2013, the library has grown to rely on Edge as a resource to improve its approach to digital inclusion, helping its communities access the technological capacity to pursue economic and educational opportunities and participate in civic life.
“Our IT department uses Edge as a reference point for all technology matters related to bandwidth and infrastructure. It keeps them informed about areas the library should focus on as it identifies improvements needed to meet the Edge Benchmarks,” said Harweda Coe, organizational initiatives and innovation manager for Forsyth County Public Library.
However, the benefits of using Edge for the library extend far beyond IT. According to Coe, Edge played a significant role in the recent renovation of the Central Library.
“When we were receiving approval for our renovated Central Library, we used Edge to present to our local government,” she said. “We also shared our Edge Assessment Results with the architecture firm so they could see what areas we had been lacking. They used this information as a guide during the renovation process.”
The renovated Central Library features 21st century additions including 90 public computers with internet access, a 20-seat computer lab, a makerspace, an audio production room and a meeting room with assistive technology.
Forsyth County Public Library has made significant improvements to the availability of assistive technology, specifically at the Central Library.
“The library will continue using Edge to support our work with assistive technology throughout the county. We currently offer it at some locations, but we are working to offer it at all locations,” said Coe.
Assistive technology the library offers includes ZoomText to magnify text and pictures on any part of the computer screen, JAWS to read text on websites, Kurzweil to allow users to scan documents and hear them read back and even workstations equipped with a fully adjustable desk and chair, leaving room to maneuver wheelchairs or mobility devices.
The library also offers Video Relay Service, an innovative service that allows a user to communicate in American Sign Language using video-conference equipment connected to a sign language interpreter. The interpreter then communicates the message in spoken English to the recipient, then communicates the recipient’s response back to the caller using American Sign Language.
“Forsyth County has been looking at the data we’ve received from using Edge as it discusses the upcoming renovations at our other branches,” said Coe. “With Edge, the library has made significant improvements to assistive technology and in the areas of digital inclusion for our community.”
The library uses Edge as a resource for assistive technology and when applying for grants that will help it meet the needs and priorities of the communities it serves.
The communities served by Forsyth County Public Library cover a broad socio-economic spectrum. According to the 2016 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates, 17.5 percent of Forsyth County’s population are considered people in poverty. Using Edge, the library applies for grants that allow it to make improvements for all residents.
“We applied for a three-year grant in partnership with the Winston-Salem Urban League and Forsyth Technical Community College. We used data from Edge when applying for the grant because it showed the library needed to offer more technology training and improve our outreach to certain communities we serve,” said Coe.
The $126,271 grant enabled the library to hire an additional trainer to provide more learning opportunities for the county’s under-served communities.
“We take technology beyond our branches and to places like recreation centers and churches. We do our best to take it anywhere,” Coe said. “If they want us, we come – sometimes even in our new bookmobile.”
WOW, which stands for Web On Wheels, is the library’s hybrid bookmobile. It measures more than 26 feet long, includes desk space for up to five laptops and offers access to the internet and free Wi-Fi. It is equipped with tablets and laptops to use for tasks such as applying and searching for jobs.
“We used Edge to write a grant for funding to help support the new bookmobile. It has books, but it also has technology that benefits the community,” said Coe. “It is our high-tech bookmobile.”
The $100,000 LSTA grant allows the library to provide services to underserved communities through the use of WOW, circulating materials and housing full time trainers to teach technology classes.
“We used funding provided by the grant to purchase laptops and iPads and use these devices to teach people how to use computers and technology. We also teach people how to create resumes and apply for jobs,” said Coe. “It is truly a mobile computer lab.”
Thanks to the support of the State Library of North Carolina, Forsyth County Public Library uses Edge to improve areas highlighted by the Edge Benchmarks in an overall approach to improve digital inclusion for its communities.
“Since 2013, our library has used Edge to identify the big areas of focus. Edge is much more than just an assessment,” said Coe. “I always share the data we receive from using Edge with all library staff because of how helpful it has been for improving our technology. We use this data for many of the grants we write to help us improve the library for the communities we serve.”