Tulare Public Library serves about 65,000 people in the heart of California's Central Valley, where agriculture is the main industry. TPL is a member of the San Joaquin Valley Library System, which provides patrons with access to a wide variety of resources and materials in diverse formats. The library plays a key role in supporting educational and learning opportunities to strengthen the digital skills of community members and bridge the digital divide. The Edge team connected with TPL Director Heidi Clark to learn more about the library's efforts to advance digital equity and how the library has used Edge 1.0 and 2.0 to meet the needs of their community. Read her responses below.
Please describe your community’s culture and current challenges:
Our community struggles with low broadband access, high rates of unemployment and some residents who are experiencing homelessness. The area boasts a large concentration of multilingual speakers and communities that are low income and hailing from migrant populations, which creates both collaborative opportunities and challenges.
What key outcomes and milestones has your library achieved using Edge?
With the help of Edge, we were able to establish an annual survey of the library which includes specific questions about the use of technology. This information has allowed us to create a baseline from which we can measure new projects. It also provides numbers for us to back up the narrative we see working the front lines.
Edge enables us to help those patrons who need it the most. We were able to take all of the pieces of the Edge Assessment and apply them proactively to benefit our community and our library. Now, we have a much clearer idea of the direction our library is going.
How has the library used Edge to engage local government and community leaders?
We have used Edge to engage in meaningful conversations with our Library Advisory Board about the vision and strategic planning for our library. I have really appreciated the Edge 2.0 tools which allow comparisons to other libraries. This feature enables us to guide conversations and identify what this community really needs in terms of technology. We are working hard to make sure these stakeholders know that the library is still relevant.
Has Edge helped your library receive additional funding or resources? Please explain.
We have not as of yet received additional funding or resources, but we are building the foundation of information and having language to engage in meaningful conversations is an important first step. The Edge process has given us much needed tools and big picture thinking for us to envision where we want to go.
How has Edge helped your library strengthen its strategic planning and staff development?
In the past, we have relied on a few knowledgeable staff members to help our patrons with technology questions. In going through the Edge process, our leadership team realized the importance of technology education for all staff and put together a plan for ongoing training and evaluation.
We realize the direction the world is moving and we are committed to making sure all team members have a baseline understanding of what the library provides and that they feel confident handling customer questions and basic troubleshooting. Everyone comes to technology with different level of understanding and skillsets, and we have responded by raising the awareness level of the need to be more proactive in that area.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic caused your library to pivot service to meet the digital needs of your community?
We had to rethink how we deliver service. We had to enhance our virtual program offerings to make sure patrons knew the library was still able to service their needs. Throughout the last few months, we have produced a variety of programming via Zoom, Facebook and a new library YouTube channel.
Many of our regular users are not tech savvy. It has been a challenge for these patrons to feel comfortable. We were able to leave our Wi-Fi access in our buildings on so patrons could gain access outside. Right now, we can only offer pickup services but we have made grab bags in order to balance tech services with more traditional library services. We have restarted our self-check-out station, implemented wireless printing and set up a 15-minute “express” computer station.