ST 1/13: The Edge initiative


Systematic library assessment is on the move. The Edge Initiative shows US entrepreneurship at its best.

The initiative was launched in 2011 by a coalition of library and local government organizations, including The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The goal is to develop a suite of tools that support continuous improvement and reinvestment in public technology. Thia approach was probably inspired by the Gates Foundation, which has always emphasized evidence-based planning and assessment.

Edge is developing a rating system comprised of benchmarks and indicators designed to work as an assessment tool – will help library staff understand best practices in public access technology services for their communities and determine what steps they need to take to improve their technology services.

The whole system looks very well designed: balanced, clear and comprehensive. The instrument has been developed for a US context, but the basic approach could well be a model for similar initiatives in other countries.

Since we are looking at statistical indicators rather than evaluation and assessment in general, I have extracted the more statistical components. Version 1.0 of the benchmarks asks for three types of statistics: survey data, book-keeping data and web traffic data,

Survey data

The library surveys patrons annually about public technology use and outcomes in the following purpose areas:

  •         Workforce development
  •         eGovernment
  •         Education
  •         Health & wellness

The following questions are included in an annual survey:

  •         Patron satisfaction with library technology
  •         Personal importance of library technology
  •         Importance of library technology to others in the community

  Book-keeping data

  •  The following metrics are tracked on an ongoing basis:
  •  Number of hours public devices are in use by patrons
  •  Number of attendees in technology classes
  •   Average wait times for public devices
  •   Number of wireless sessions
  •   Number of requests for one-on-one technology help
  •   The library has a sufficient number of device hours available on a per capita basis. (Proposed categories: 3 to 6 hours; 6 to 12 hours; more than 12 hours per capita)

Web traffic

  • Web analytics are used to evaluate the use of online library resources annually
  • Library website usage reports are reviewed at least quarterly
  • Subscription content (e.g., databases) usage reports are reviewed at least quarterly



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