The Public Library Association (PLA) is very excited to be part of a national effort to create Edge, the first-ever set of benchmarks for public access technology in public libraries. Recognizing that public libraries are sometimes the only means by which millions of people access computers, the Internet, and other technologies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the work of the Edge Coalition—13 organizations including PLA and program leader Urban Libraries Council. The Coalition is dedicated to developing benchmarks and tools for public libraries to strategically plan, advocate, and ultimately meet their communities’ needs for public access to technology.
What is Edge?
The Edge Benchmarks point to practices that will help libraries evaluate and continually improve public technology services in their communities. The benchmarks are divided into three main categories that assess:
1. Community Value (Benchmarks 1–3): External practices that connect the library to the community.
2. Engaging the Community & Decision Makers (Benchmarks 4–6): Specific programs, services and supports that enable people to get value from their use of technology.
3. Organizational Management (Benchmarks 7–11): Internal management and infrastructure.
Within these categories are a series of benchmarks and indicators to measure specific activities. The Edge Coalition has arrived at these measures by surveying current library practices and collecting feedback from library leaders across the country.
How does Edge work?
The Edge Benchmarks enable libraries to score themselves against best practices that define access and quality. Later this year, every library participating in the Edge Initiative will have access to an online assessment tool. Libraries that adopt Edge will be supported by training and a toolkit of customizable materials. These tools are designed to help demonstrate the positive impact of technology services in the community.