Edge Benchmark Seven: Whoa, Horsie!

TechSoup is part of a national coalition of 13 organizations working with the library field to create the first-ever set of technology benchmarks that define quality public access technology services in libraries. As part of this initiative, we are gathering feedback from libraries, and then sharing that feedback.

We recently compiled results from a survey focused on Benchmark 7. This benchmark states: 

Libraries have leaders and staff who actively engage in high-level community planning and digital inclusion efforts to amplify their value in the community.

We received a range of feedback responses. One thing that was evident was that it was sometimes assumed that libraries must fulfill all the indicators listed in the benchmark. It is stated that libraries should be "doing some/all of the following," and it seems that is not quite specific enough. This will be made clearer in the final online assessment tool that is in development.


  • These are spot on. It is important to build these relationships within the community in order to make the library not only a part of the community, but the center of the community.
  • This has put a fire to my ideas and we will hold an "advertised community forum on library technology needs"
  • These all make sense. Even if all can't be done right away, it is possible to add at least one and do it each year.
  • This is a great benchmark! I like the requirement that includes tech leaders in the library board as well as the requirement that librarians involve themselves in teaching technology. Having a benchmark may spur those that are reluctant, out into the community more. Likewise having tech experts on the board will offer support for tech issues in the library. Very good!  The writing was clear to me.
  • This makes sense. Not all of those things are available in our community, but I'm thinking perhaps we should be leading some of those, such as a local technology advisory committee.
  • This sounds really wonderful. You have to be a very large library to do even half of these items, but this will keep us trying to improve.
  • Yes - it does make sense, and its points vary enough to allow libraries to meet this benchmark n a step-by-step fashion...or even spur some on to establishing community collaboration in fostering technology in smaller, rural areas.
  • It does make sense. The ideas listed show me just how much I need a better grasp of technology! I would love to know enough to host a technology 'petting zoo' for the community.
  • Easy to understand - not so easy to do.
  • Makes sense, but doesn't happen here. Our library hasn't had the dynamic leadership described herein for a number of years. Wish it was otherwise.

A good tip

  • I'd add having a suggestion jar... not just tech, but anything.  Many people will use these over other types of survey.  They seem to like anonymous.

Doesn't work for small libraries

  • The size of library and the community served definitely has a bearing on the ability to meet all of the items listed. I am the only person at my library that has the opportunity to really meet most of the requirements and complete my day-to-day obligations of directing the library itself.
  • Some of the points are unrealistic for rural communities. I have met only one or two people in my town that have IT management background and, unfortunately, they do not use, nor are they interested in being a part of, the library. I know of no local technology advisory committees in this area (7.3) and I certainly don't have the knowledge or information to meet with an IT decision maker, if one exists in this area! I would definitely need more information before I could meet the criteria.
  • It makes sense for a large library in a large community. It bears no relation to the reality of a small, remote community such as ours. What were you thinking?
  • This makes sense but would need to be modified to meet the needs of small rural libraries. All of our staff is part-time and we do not have time to meet all of the requirements listed above.
  • A few of the points under 7.1 seem to be geared for a large library system. As a stand-along city library, it is difficult for us to do point 3. The same goes for under point 7.2, to follow bullet points three and four. I am not sure we can even aspire to do them. That said, I would not change the benchmark. It is well-written.
  • This is a great benchmark, but might be a bit much for a very small rural library to attain. However, it does put some goals out there. Having staff involved in community planning keeps the importance of a library in front of the people who control the funds. Voicing a need for inexpensive broadband/internet access can only keep the issue on the front burner so that cities and communities can keep working towards that goal.
  • In a perfect world might makes sense; however in a small rural library with one or two staff we struggle to do our daily library business and take care of our customers.  Taking on some of these requirements would be impossible.
  • Good ideas.  From a very small library POV, you are getting close to losing me however.  Most small towns don't have Chambers. Perhaps include PTA/PTO. 
  • The wording makes sense but the reality of having board members with an IT background in a rural area is unlikely as is having a local technology advisory committee.
  • Those ideas listed would certainly work for libraries in cities, but not for small rural areas where the same 20 people do everything. Here, as long as the computers are working at a reasonable speed and the wi-fi is working, no one really cares about anything else.
  • As a public library serving less than 1000 in a rural area, with a total budget of 30K, both parts of this benchmark are unattainable. Our board consists of community members elected to represent the town.
  • Sounds great but not real useful for small, rural libraries. As a small town - population 750 - we don't even have a local technology advisory committee and it is extremely difficult to find a board member with an IT management background.
  • Great benchmarks but not all are practical for all municipal libraries; for example, the first benchmark listed most often has residency requirements and not all library leaders may live within the municipality that they work and some municipalities are very small with small staff that also not qualified for a Board appointment. The Benchmark requiring one Board member to be IT is also in most cases impractical since many municipalities have trouble even getting anyone to fill Board vacancies and requiring an additional prerequisite is more of a deterrent to encouraging local participation. Many Municipalities do not even have a Tech Advisory Board. Perhaps an "ala cart" combination of at least 6 - or appropriately, 7 to set as minimum standard.

Works for small libraries

  • Being located in a smaller community, it is easier to be a part of these community groups by being on a board or monthly visits. I think these components are very important for us and we need to be reminded we should be more involved with them.
  • 'Make at least one presentation' and 'attends regular meetings of local funding' are both happening and doable.

Sounds good, BUT

  • All of the activities are very good ideas, but I wonder how many communities really have such a focus on IT.  In my community IT is still very foreign to everyone from community leaders to library patrons.  The need, value, and role of IT must be established in my community before we can act on any of the above.
  • Honestly, our local funding bodies would prefer we not attend [their meetings].
  • It makes sense, it just seems like a high reach for me right now.
  • It makes sense and sounds like a great idea, but with today's staffing levels it is a bit of a stretch to imagine that this would be possible.
  • This is not very practical. What local technology advisory committees are out there?  I'm not sure I've heard of any!

You've got it covered!

  • I feel it is very inclusive of the things we do. At this time I can't add to it.
  • These things make sense and are best practices for libraries in my area.

More clarity, please

  • Please give examples of "local funding bodies."
  • Not sure what you mean by a 'key community IT decision maker'.
  • To begin, the antecedent of "their" is unclear.  The "value" of libraries?  of staff? of efforts?  This is my problem with this whole project --- nothing is written in plain, clear English.  Why can't it just say:  "People who work in libraries are active in community planning groups."