When Morgan County Library was first approached about using Edge in Fall 2016, Director Stacey Embry declined the offer. As a new director, she was initially reluctant to participate. She was worried she wouldn’t be capable of handling it and questioned the time investment for a library with only five staff.
After participating in Edge for a year, Embry now has a completely different perspective.
“Edge was vital for me as a beginning director. It was most influential with helping to identify priorities and goals for the library,” she said. “Starting with the Edge Assessment, it allows the library to focus on narrowing down everything so we know exactly what improvements need to be made.”
As a way to further maximize the return on the library’s time investment, Embry used Edge as a springboard to apply for a Technology Mini Grant offered by the Missouri State Library.
“When applying for the grant, I referenced verbiage from the Edge Assessment to make a case for increased funding and how it would directly benefit the library and our community,” she said. “The process went smoothly and it read very well because of the terminology that Edge provides. It gives you the advantage of being more descriptive and the ability to explain the steps to achieve your goals.”
Morgan County Library was awarded a $15,014 Technology Mini Grant to promote digital literacy and improve technology-based services. The library will add two early literacy stations to the children’s department that will include preloaded software, replace five staff computers and introduce a portable training lab with eight new laptops and a charging station. Other improvements include upgrades to the office production software on 14 computers and eight laptops, plus the installation of photo editing software on five computers.
“I can honestly say I am proud to receive this grant,” Embry said. “The whole process went so smoothly because Edge gave us the ability to reference how our library was doing in comparison to our peers and how we measured against national benchmarks.”
“We didn’t even have a technology plan before Edge,” she said. “This grant allows us to implement our new tech plan and begin scheduling upgrades on a regular basis. No one had ever implemented this type of planning at the library, but our IT guy understands and is on board.”
Working with the Local Government to Improve Digital Literacy
As part of the library’s Edge Action Plan, it now offers more computer classes for patrons, developing programming and assessing what offerings are most important to the community. The new portable training lab enables the library to improve digital literacy by offering sessions that cover searching for jobs online, creating resumes and using email and social media.
“There are many different topics we plan to cover once we launch the trainings,” she said. “We are the only connection that some members of the community have to learn as adults. We serve a Mennonite community and we have patrons that come in and don’t even have a photo ID. Technology is very new and different for them.”
The idea of the portable training lab was the vision of the local government to provide a community space where residents can receive training to improve digital literacy, filling out job applications or building resumes.
“The local government previously had a group that focused on workforce development, so I’m hoping the library can step in to fill that role,” said Embry. “We’ve also been working to promote a program that helps underprivileged youth find jobs in the area. We’re trying to show the library’s full value to the community.”
According to Embry, the community doesn’t offer a place for residents to borrow devices and connect to the internet – besides the library. This is important for residents who need technology and access to apply for jobs.
“We are looking forward to an improved partnership with our local government. I’ve shared with them that we have received the grant and are working on the lab so we can work together to promote it and get people in here to learn,” she said.
As the library continues strengthening and developing services to meet the specific priorities of its community, Embry understands the important role that technology plays for her patrons, but also the importance of technology for every library.
“People thought technology would kill libraries, but it helped keep us alive. We have so much foot traffic in our library that never check out books or go near our collections,” said Embry. “Edge opened our eyes to what we were actually doing with our technology and showed us how vital it is for all libraries to keep current for the communities we serve.”