We've been surveying the library community to get feedback on the Edge Initiative's beta benchmarks. Beta Benchmark 9 focused on libraries sharing their best practices and expertise. The new version of the benchmarks was just released, strengthened by your feedback! A bit of tweaking and consolidation happened so that Benchmark 9 is now Benchmark 6. There have been a few changes to the indicators, however the core benchmark remains the same.
At TechSoup for Libraries we LOVE how willing libraries are to share and to help each other, and that is what this benchmark is all about. Here is a copy of Edge Benchmarks Version 1.0 Benchmark 6:
Some survey respondents were overwhelmed by the thought of completing all these indicators. I think it is best to focus on the general spirit of this benchmark and the Edge initiative itself. These benchmarks represent best practices. They are aspirational and demonstrate what libraries can plan and work towards. If the benchmark only focused on simple tasks that every library was already doing, then there wouldn't be a reason to strive to achieve more and it wouldn't open conversations with your funders on how to gain resources towards meeting your community tech needs.
We should all be contributing to the library community by sharing in some fashion. It reminds me of the saying, "None of us is as smart as all of us." It is about working together and about making sure you are aware of what is already out there, so you aren't reinventing the wheel every time you teach a technology class or draft a new tech policy.
Here a few direct quotes from the many library staff that completed our survey:
I'm on board:
- Even in small libraries we must share all info to maintain our up to date resources for our library and community.
- It is a great goal because it positions the library as a community leader in technology.
- Very clear message and provides clear information for all libraries to follow and achieve.
- It does make sense and captures what we do in our own community of libraries--local and statewide.
I need to know more:
- I am not prepared to do any of this sharing - I'm unfamiliar with some of the resources.
- I'm not sure what is meant by "network management policies and practices". We are a countywide library system with 9 facilities and about 300 workstations, but I'm not sure that we have anything written. And, if we did, my computer network managers might be leery of sharing it for security reasons.
- What is "a community of practice"? (This one was asked a lot!)
- No, the information does not make sense to me. I'm not sure what my training resources and curricula are, and I'm also not sure what public technology management and services are.
I just don't agree.
- Yes it makes sense. No I do not need more information. The last one is unreasonable for two reasons. I don't always get the funds to go to professional gatherings. I'm certainly not likely to be chose to be a presenter at a conference every year.
- Small/Rural libraries often do not have sufficient staff to attend "professional gatherings," let alone present at them. Small/Rural libraries are not the usual cutting-edge, innovators -- because of very real limitations like staffing and budgets. Also, many small/rural library managers are not professionals. Point: The benchmark should address/consider the real-world condtions in small/rural libraries.
- It makes sense. But it doesn't apply to my situation very well. Community is too small and/or other entities already provide much of this.
Part of the Edge Initiative involves providing training and resources for libraries, so we are paying close attention to your feedback regarding what you'd like to know more about.
I hope that these benchmarks will open communication between libraries of all sizes. There are so many wonderful resources and tools available to help us share and learn from each other. As Dwight McInvaill attests in a blog post, "Someday, these bad economic times will end. The Great Recession will be over. Happy days will return. But will the public library profession – and small and rural libraries in particular – be prepared then to advocate well for increased funding for public technology services? The new Edge Initiative may help."
I'm a firm believer that plans are the best way to achieve success. Almost everything I've achieved has happened because I stretched, I set big goals and then took steps (sometimes even baby steps!) to work towards them. The benchmarks can help provide you with a plan to meet your community's technology needs, and also to truly change the lives of your community members and ensure that your library is a valued resource.