Developing and maintaining strong community connections is the cornerstone of library service for Geneseo Public Library District (GPLD). Serving a rural community in western Illinois, this means not only providing quality customer service and outreach to patrons, but also space where they can connect to the latest digital resources and services.
GPLD completed their Edge Assessment in April 2014 as part of the Illinois State Library’s Public Library Per Capita Grant program, which provides annual funding to the state’s public libraries based on their service population. The Edge assessment and toolkit played a critical role in helping the Library develop a technology plan for enhancing services in three priority areas: digital literacy classes, devices and bandwidth, and community engagement.
GPLD used their assessment results and recommendations to develop an action plan that included a strong focus on improving digital literacy among both staff and patrons. The Library prides itself on excellent customer service and enrolled staff in technology training courses to enhance their ability to respond to patrons’ technology needs. They hired an additional part-time IT staff member to address expanding technology services and a tech-savvy individual for a newly created Assistant Director position. Building on this increased capacity, the Library moved from offering occasional classes on general computer use to increasing the number of classes and variety of topics, including training on how to use mobile devices, computer network maintenance, and conducting an online job search.
Recommendations from Edge Benchmark 9 helped Library Director Claire Crawford identify the need to provide the necessary number of devices and sufficient bandwidth to address community priorities and help patrons achieve personal goals. Grant funding from the Illinois State Library allowed GPLD to purchase 12 new laptop computers and a portable charging station to provide patrons with additional devices for digital literacy classes and other online activities, such as creating resumes and conducting job searches.
To provide patrons with a faster, more robust broadband connection, the Library decided to migrate their network infrastructure to a fiber optic network provided by funding from the Federal Communications Commission’s E-rate program. They selected local telephone company Geneseo Communications to install the new network, which increased internet speed and garnered positive feedback from staff and patrons.
The Library also focused on recommendations from Edge Benchmark 5 to build strategic relationships with community partners and maximize library services. Recognizing GPLD as a critical community resource center, the Keppy Foundation donated funds that enabled the Library to replace older devices with 13 new computers. Following the installation of the fiber optic network, Geneseo Public Library District secured a $3,400 grant from the Geneseo Communications Charitable Foundation to purchase 8 tablets for library staff use. This mix of Android devices and iPads allow the staff to move freely through the library, quickly assisting patrons and connecting them to the library’s digital resources.
GPLD continues to use Edge benchmarks and recommendations as the foundation for the Library’s technology plans and for increased community engagement through improved services and community awareness. Results from the Library’s survey of patron technology use indicate that computer usage has grown 20% since GPLD increased the number of available devices and installed the fiber optic network. For Crawford, Edge has provided a guideline for improving resources and services to position the library as the community’s technology resource center.
“Edge wants libraries to engage their communities and the toolkit is kind of like a checklist for librarians to figure out how much they need to know or do to maximize the quality of their technology resources,” said Crawford. “It allows you to connect the needs of the community to the library’s technology needs and establish a clear focus for strategic action and change.”