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OITP Receives Funding to Continue Work on Edge Initiative

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The ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) is pleased to announce it has received a $81,600 grant addendum from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to continue its participation in the Edge Initiative. With the Public Library Association (PLA), OITP serves on the Edge coalition of organizations that provide leadership for the development of public access technology benchmarks and associated training, support materials, and assessment tools.

Work began on the benchmarks in 2011 and has continued with pilot and beta testing of a prototype framework in 2012. Benchmark revisions currently are underway with a small working group that includes members from OITP, the Urban Libraries Council, the University of Washington I-School, the International City/County Managers Association, the University of Maryland Information and Policy Access Center, and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. ALA OITP Fellow Bob Bocher will serve as the OITP lead on benchmark revisions, while Program Director Larra Clark will continue to represent OITP on the governing roundtable.

“Supporting and promoting the effective and efficient use of technology in libraries is central to OITP’s mission,” said Bonnie Tijerina, chair of the ALA OITP Advisory Committee. “We are pleased to build on our experience in this arena and contribute to this important national initiative.”

OITP’s role in the coalition also includes conducting research, helping to document the development process, supporting communications to ALA members and contributing to governance and sustainability decision making. PLA is leading curriculum development and train-the-trainer programming to support use of the benchmarks as a planning, management, and advocacy tool.
The benchmarks are focused in three main groupings to demonstrate public value:

  • Community Value, which includes indicators related to digital literacy and digital content and externally facing priorities related to employment, education, e-government and health information;
  •  Engaging the Community & Decision Makers, which includes indicators related to strategic partnerships and community planning; and
  • Organizational Management, which includes indicators related to technology planning and deployment and are more internally facing in their orientation.

Feedback gathered on the benchmarks so far has included a beta test of more than 40 libraries; library focus groups; conference programming; online comments and pilot testing in four libraries in California, Oklahoma and Texas. Comments have been quite positive overall, and the input will be used to make final adjustments before the V1.0 benchmarks begin launching in spring 2013.

“Providing public access technology and training is an essential public library service, and this initiative both recognizes and elevates this reality,” Clark said. “Most commenters to date share our belief that the benchmarks and assessment tools can help libraries chart paths to continuous improvement. Combined with training, resource guides and communications tools, I believe we will provide a strong suite of resources to the library field.”

OITP plans more blogs and articles in the coming months to provide additional information on how the benchmarks are evolving and what resources will be available to support libraries in self-assessment and implementation of the benchmarks. Coalition member TechSoup Global also is producing a series of webinars exploring the benchmarks over the fall of 2012.

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Larra Clark

Larra Clark is the deputy director of both the Public Library Association and Washington Office’s public policy team. Larra received her bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Arizona and has a M.S. in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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