Oklahoma’s Pioneer Library System (PLS) serves over 330,000 patrons through 11 branches in 10 distinct cities located in three counties spanning a 1,000 square mile radius. Anne Masters, Director of PLS since 2007, chose to be an early adopter of Edge in part because Susan McVey, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, is such a strong proponent and because PLS is “…always looking for ways to improve, in part by comparing ourselves to peer libraries. I never compare down, only compare up!”
Taking the Edge assessment, analyzing the results, and formulating technology improvements coincided with the library’s comprehensive strategic planning initiative. Both the process of engaging staff in Edge as well as the results of the assessment greatly informed the new plan, which identifies six customer segments that will be targeted in coming years. These include three groups that are technology users: digitarians (users of electronic resources); staying connected (people that use the library’s computers); and transitionals (people moving from print to digital resources).
Masters notes, “Our new strategic plan has five areas of focus, each with a strong technology component. One priority is to strengthen customers we identify as ‘digitarians’ and we’ll be working to motivate them to more fully utilize the technology resources PLS offers, including downloadable resources. We also want to strengthen the ‘digitarian’ capacity of PLS staff by developing new staff competencies and offering training and professional development opportunities for staff to achieve them. This includes our business and HR staff capacity. For example, we plan to incorporate technology skill assessments into our hiring processes.”
The new PLS strategic plan also incorporates expanded offerings of computer classes (at least once a year throughout the branches) that will train patrons to make better use of health, wellness and e-government resources.
Overall, Masters reports that, “Taking the Edge assessment was both a confirming and revealing experience in that it showed where our strengths lie and, also, areas where we could be doing better – some of which we hadn’t been fully aware. For example, we had an ‘aha’ moment when we looked at the connectivity results and realized there was a much greater disparity in connectivity levels between our smaller, more rural branches and those located in larger communities. We’re now working on bringing them up to more reasonable speed.”
“Another area I knew we were lacking was our approach to technology planning. As of 2015, we’ll be engaging our community partners (city managers, city councils and city IT personnel as well as school district and technology centers) for both input and feedback in our ongoing technology needs assessments and planning activities.”
Masters notes that, “Taking the Edge assessment is a learning experience that is even more beneficial when you bring people together across the library system. Even before you get the results, the process is worthwhile. Edge also provides a vehicle for communications with various constituencies throughout the communities we serve. Our use of Edge is a work in progress. We’ll continue to make use of the Edge resources and, when we take the Edge assessment again, we’ll see things that we’ve accomplished as well as new areas to target for improvement.”