Improved services, new partnerships, and a better grasp on serving the community. Some libraries spend decades trying to achieve these outcomes. Some just have a smarter way of doing it.
Henderson County Public Library uses Edge to better identify technology needs across the county and improve services for each of its unique populations.
“We have been working on Edge for three years and it has helped change the cultural atmosphere of our library system,” said Library Director Trina Rushing from Henderson County Public Library.
The library incorporated its first Edge Action Plan into a larger, system wide action plan. The plan is written annually, reviewed and updated quarterly, then shared with the board of trustees on a regular basis.
The library’s first area of focus with its new action plan was serving patrons with disabilities.
The library used its Edge Assessment Results to justify its effort to comply with ADA standards for technology access at all library locations. This resulted in the county IT department working with the library to identify and prioritize its equipment, support needs, and training.
The initial staff training had two components, both promoting awareness regarding the needs of patrons with various disabilities and reinforcing the library administration’s commitment to serving all members of the community.
The first component was reaching out to the local Employee Assistance Network and bringing them in to provide ADA training for all library staff. Since the initial training in 2014, the library has provided the training on an annual basis.
The second component of the training reintroduced library staff to the North Carolina Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, including the services that are available to patrons across the state.
“This resulted in the promotion and increased use of services by staff and patrons. Once we had completed our internal cultural shift, it was at this point that we felt ready to move into our community,” said Rushing.
After the trainings and some needed improvements, the library was equipped to provide top notch service to patrons with disabilities.
“Thanks to Edge, all staff have a greater understanding and awareness of what it means to effectively serve patrons with disabilities. Staff can be heard asking one another ‘Is this ADA compliant?’ when planning for new services, furnishings, and equipment,” said Rushing.
The next item on the library’s plan was to focus on partnerships with local organizations.
“Our first community partnership was to assist with the workforce development needs in our community, so we looked to our Goodwill Career Connection,” said Rushing. “The local career connection has staff members that are skilled, trained, and ready to teach resume and interviewing classes and assist individuals with job searching.”
However, the Goodwill Career Connection was not prepared to teach individuals basic digital literacy skills. This is where the library was able to assist.
“We were able to form a partnership where library staff would go to the Goodwill Career Connection computer lab and teach individuals basic skills computer classes. This included how to use a computer, how to set up an email, and how to search the internet. Once those individuals felt comfortable, the Career Connections Staff could take over resume, interviewing, and job search skills,” she said. “The Career Connections staff will also bring those classes into our libraries and work with individuals using the library’s technology.”
Goodwill Career Connection and library staff worked together to develop a Job/Career Resources Guide that provides information on the library’s job and career related resources, as well as local, state, and federal job resources.
“We have worked with our local chamber of commerce in order to get information out to our community about the Job/Career Resources Guide,” she said.
Henderson County Public Library also worked with WNC Score, an organization that serves the small business community. It assists individuals starting small businesses and helps existing ones grow. WNC provides one-on-one consultations for individuals, but wanted to expand to larger training sessions.
“They began to host small business development classes at our library. Some of the classes they offer include writing business plans, digital marketing, and using online resources to grow their business,” said Rushing.
Another part of the community’s population that the library identified a need for improved services and programs offered is non-English speakers.
“To better serve our English as a second language and adult basic education patrons, we partnered with Blue Ridge Literacy Council (BRLC) which has staff and tutors available to teach reading literacy, but not staff to teach basic digital literacy,” she said.
The collaboration between the two organizations led to a win-win partnership. The library used the BRLC computer lab, with BRLC providing interpreters and assistance during hands-on practice. In turn, the literacy council’s tutors and students visit the library to utilize the technology to further their digital literacy.
With support from the State Library of North Carolina, Henderson County Public Library plans to continue using Edge to make improvements for the community.
“Edge has helped transform how our stakeholders view the library. The shift in the cultural atmosphere of the library did not happen overnight, but by focusing on engaging the community to enhance digital literacy skills, we are beginning to be seen as a key resource for addressing workforce and economic development issues,” said Rushing.