March 2011 is when it began: an effort on the part of a number of organizations to create a set of technology-related benchmarks for libraries. This coalition and its efforts are known as the LibraryEdge. Several states have already participated in a “soft launch” of the LibraryEdge benchmarks, and in January 2014, the full suite of resources will be made available to all public libraries.
The obvious question is, why should I care? What impact does this have upon my library? Fortunately, the answer is a simple one: as much of an impact as you want. Let me be clear. This initiative is NOT intended to be applicable to any and every library, and it carries no weight with regard to the Maine Public Library Minimum Standards. It can be thought of as a structured set of goals, even ideals, that may be helpful when it comes to developing a long-term vision for your library’s technology, services and staff training.
Fortunately, this is not purely an intellectual exercise. When January hits, a number of tools will be made available, including instructional webinars, self-assessment tools, resource guides and more. TechSoup, one of the partners, maintains a LibraryEdge blog describing the Edge at work in public libraries. Libraries will be able to track their progress and compare other libraries within the state and nationally, not competitively but to see how other libraries are being successful in making technology and digital literacy a reality for their communities. There are already a couple case studies showing how libraries large and small (though not as small as many Maine libraries) have fared taking on the Edge Initiative.
As I said earlier, these benchmarks are definitely not meant to be held as the standard for all libraries. Instead, libraries may want to review them with an eye for thinking about the next small step to take in staff training, long-term goals around technology maintenance, or how to engage their community in new ways. When January 2014 is upon us, it will be interesting for libraries to self-assess and really begin to take advantage of the resources of this national effort.
How do you think your library measures up? What is your next technology-related goal?