Itasca library wants to make the most of technology

The Itasca Community Library has 29 public computers, but are they enough?

The library offers 25 classes on how to use everything from a desktop computer to an iPad. But is that too many?

These are just a few of the questions Executive Director Betsy Adamowski hopes to answer as part of the library's participation this summer in a program called the Edge Initiative.

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and led by the Urban Libraries Council, the initiative aims to help public libraries provide all residents with the opportunity to enrich and improve their lives through open access to information, communication and technology services.

“(Bill and Melinda) Gates put forward this project to give libraries a tool that creates a benchmark for establishing the needs of the community in regard to technology,” Adamowski said. “We have computers, we have classes, and we help our patrons get ready for jobs with resume training. We're doing all of these things, but no one has ever studied to see if we are we doing enough.”

Adamowski was beginning the process Monday as she completed an initial survey, answering questions regarding the library's budget, community size and its current technology.

Early next year, participating libraries will receive their complete assessments along with a tool kit to teach officials how to use the information when lobbying for additional funds or seeking grants.

“Libraries really do provide a unique service that directly improves the lives of the people in the community,” Adamowski said. “Using the tools and training offered through Edge, library leaders will be able to engage more successfully with elected and appointed officials when sharing the value of how libraries can and should be a priority of the community.”

Adamowski said she believes her library will perform well against the benchmarks that will come back in January, but it will be nice to know exactly where it stands.

“It will be interesting to see what comes out of this and how we'll be able to use those numbers to reach out for grants and funding,” she said. “It's something to hang on to. We benchmark salaries, books and chairs, so it's about time someone thought to benchmark our technology.

“This library is full of computers and trained master librarians, so I imagine we'll come out of this being able to toot our horn better.”

Other participating libraries include those in Arlington Heights, Naperville, Wheeling and Bensenville.

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