Libraries are continuously evolving from places that only offered materials for people to read, borrow, or view into places that provide services to meet community priorities. As part of its mission to “enrich lives, build community, and foster success by bringing people, information, and ideas together,” Jacksonville Public Library (JPL) uses Edge as a way to see how they were currently meeting community priorities, connecting it to the overall strategic plan.
Thanks to the purchase of a statewide subscription to Edge by the Florida Division of Library and Information Services, Jacksonville Public Library has full access to the Edge Toolkit. This opportunity enabled the library to assess their technology services and then use the Edge Recommendations and Resources to make improvements where necessary.
As part of its work to meet community priorities, JPL participates in several community initiatives. One example is Project LEAP (Library Enhanced Access Program), which offers early literacy programs, GED classes for adults, and technology training programs. These programs are available to members of the community through Jacksonville Journey, a community-wide anti-crime initiative.
“We continue to work with the Jacksonville Journey,” said Gretchen Mitchell, Assistant Director for Support Services at Jacksonville Public Library. “Our E-Services Department is responsible for the digital literacy element of Project LEAP. We reach out to different organizations and do a six to nine week period within their organization where we help their customers and clients learn digital skills.”
Through Project LEAP, Jacksonville Public Library has partnered with dozens of community and faith-based organizations that focus on serving diverse and disadvantaged populations, from the homeless to ex-offenders, to ensure that together they are supporting the integration of these groups into the workforce and into society.
“For example, if there are people that need to learn how to type up a resume or if they have people that want to learn how to open an email account, we can help them,” said Mitchell. “We work to make sure the people who don’t currently have the job skills they need actually get them.”
The library also works with school aged participants, which can sometimes present even bigger challenges.
“We visit an afterschool organization for at risk youth a couple of times each week. Because it is afterschool, kids don’t always want to sit in another class – presenting a unique challenge for our instructors to create interesting ways to keep them engaged,” she said.
One way to address this challenge is to integrate what is important and relevant to them into the training.
“In February, the instructor had them work to create Valentine’s Day cards, requiring them to use Microsoft Word and Publisher,” said Mitchell. “This helped to teach them both Word and Publisher at the same time.”
Transforming youth from passive media consumers to active creators proved that the JPL staff is skilled at working with every type of community member. In fact, Jacksonville Public Library continuously adapts the services it offers to meet the programming needs of individuals and organizations alike.
Edge provided Jacksonville with data and reports to help them make the case for the additional resources to allow the library to continue expanding and improving the technology services available to customers.
“One of the real appeals of Edge is the idea of national benchmarks and to see how our library fits in nationally and also how it is ranked against our peers,” said Mitchell. “It’s great to see where we stand in terms of serving our community and it was important to share the Edge Peer Comparison Report and show where we ranked in order to get support for more resources.”
Using the list of action items from the Edge Assessment, JPL most recently focused on achieving Edge Benchmark 2. To do this, the library staff creates and teaches advanced classes that cover digital photography, digital image editing, coding, and other technology classes.
One of the classes offered by JPL focuses on GIMP, a freely available program for tasks such as photo editing and image creation. Photo editing software skills are highly marketable, but access to commercial software is expensive, making access to GIMP on library computers important for many patrons. However, not all computers were equipped with the program.
“We already teach classes at the library on how to use GIMP, so it seemed like a perfect fit to install it on all computers,” said Lynn Jacobson, Bibliographic Systems and Access Manager. “We review the profiles for the public computers once a year, so adding it was something that we could easily achieve.”
Adding GIMP to all computers helped JPL achieve Edge Benchmark 2. Meeting the national standard for digital content creation is important because it provides customers with more opportunities to access the photo editing and image creation program.
Jacksonville Public Library’s use of Edge goes beyond showing where the library is meeting and exceeding national benchmarks – it is also helping with the long term success strategy of the library.
“A number of items from our Strategic Plan are already connected to Edge, particularly in the area of ‘Technology Success’. We have learned that sometimes we have to mix and match our services we offer in order to meet the needs of the community,” said Mitchell. “Edge helps us find some of the easier wins that we can focus on within our strategic plan. We are here for our customers, so we want to continue supporting them in the things that they want to do.”