Spotlight on Illinois and the Edge Initiative

Illinois libraries have been actively involved in the development and testing phase of the Edge Initiative. In this article, we highlight a handful of resources from Illinois.

The Edge Initiative

The Edge Initiative is a voluntary assessment program that provides libraries with benchmarks, best practices, tools and resources that support continuous improvement and reinvestment in public technology services. Edge helps libraries connect their services to community priorities.   Edge will be available to public libraries nationwide in January 2014. A group of pilot libraries, including libraries in Illinois, has been testing the benchmarks in their libraries and communities. Here is an assortment of stories and best practices connected to four of the eleven Edge benchmarks.

Benchmark 3: Serving the Workforce

Edge Benchmark 3 includes, "The library supports use of public technology for workforce development and entrepreneurship."

  • Bill Erbes, Assistant Library Director at Bensenville Community Library, was interviewed about the resources and services the library provides to meet the needs of job seekers and entrepreneurs.  The library also applies for grants to offer training in specific areas, such as its Career Boot Camp, which taught 21st century skills for enhancing job searches.

Benchmark 4: Focus on Community Priorities

Edge Benchmark 4 states, "Libraries make strategic decisions based on community priorities for digital inclusion and innovation." Illinois libraries have been highlighted for work to identify community priorities.

  • In this article, Stephen Kershner, director of the Cook Memorial Public Library in Libertyville, emphasizes strategically partnering with community groups. Kershner also focuses on the library’s active role in reaching out to those in the community.

Benchmark 8: Staff Technology Skills

Edge Benchmark 8 states, "Libraries have sufficient staff with technology expertise to help patrons achieve their goals." Illinois libraries have shared advice for creating a culture of ongoing technology learning at the library.

  • In this webinar, Mick Jacobsen and Toby Greenwalt discussed techniques and resources for teaching staff technology skills. During the participatory session, many people contributed favorite resources for training, too.

Benchmark 11: Making Technology Accessible to Everyone

Edge Benchmark 11 states, "Libraries ensure participation in digital technology for people with disabilities." Illinois libraries have been highlighted for their work to make digital technology accessible.

  • Holly Jin and Gary Gustin with the Skokie Public Library were interviewed about their library's innovative accessible technology initiatives. Jin is the preschool services coordinator as well as the coordinator of services for children with special needs. Gustin is a reference librarian, but is also in charge of services for people with disabilities.
  • In addition to the interview, Holly Jin also delivered a one-hour webinar describing ways libraries could use technology to serve and reach out to children on the autism spectrum and their families. View the session archive to learn about the library's Come On In program and more.
  • In an upcoming webinar, Soon Har Tan with the Itasca Community Library will provide an overview of the library's Vision Center. Learn about the technology, the training, and the partnerships that made it possible.

Thank you to these individuals and libraries for their contributions! As these resources highlight, the Edge Initiative is an exciting step toward aligning public technology services for greater community impact.