Being on the Edge - Technology Benchmarks for Public Libraries
I’ve been thinking about the Edge a lot lately, a word that carries multiple meanings. When I go hiking, sometimes I am on the edge of a cliff, looking down at the expansive beauty below. When I’m out ice skating, I balance on the inner and outer edges of the blade to move across the ice. I remember the song “Livin’ on the Edge” a hit single by Aerosmith in the early 90’s. But none of these are the “edge” that has been on my mind. I’ve been thinking about being on the edge of the digital divide, working to make that divide smaller through public access to technology and technology instruction.
The Edge Initiative Technology Benchmarks are a tool to help us get one step closer to closing the digital divide. I recently participated in a discussion about these benchmarks with libraries from around the United States. I was even interviewed by the folks at Edge (you can watch the video here).
So what are these benchmarks, and what do they have to do with BTOP? The Edge Technology Benchmarks are designed to help you set goals for technology in your public library. The benchmarks set a standard for public libraries, a target to aim for with regards to technology. The bar is set pretty high, but it is something to reach for one goal at a time. Through planning and persistence, you will improve the level of technology and instruction offered in your library.
The benchmarks are also something concrete to take to your library board, your city council, and your community, to advocate for more support for the library. Why are you asking for more money for technology? Why do you need more staff to provide technology instruction? Because you are trying to meet a standard level of library service. The benchmarks also can be used as a measuring tool, to show how much you have already accomplished. Preliminary reports from benchmark beta testers indicated that libraries are doing a better than we realize.
The benchmarks are in the final phases of beta testing, and will be launched sometime this summer. Participation in the Edge Initiative will be voluntary, but will hold many benefits to help with future planning for your library. If you’re curious to learn more, visit the Edge Initiative website, and stay tuned for more information.