The library community has a long-standing commitment to public access to information created by or for the federal, state and local government. This principle of the public’s “Right to Know” is the cornerstone of government accountability and informed public participation. This is why ALA supports legislative efforts that promote public access to government information, open government, and E-Government services.
As government agencies continue to digitize forms and services, libraries are often the only organizations that can help citizens interact with these agencies and access E-Government resources. Libraries provide the facilities and expertise necessary to deliver these services in local communities, including public access computing and Internet access, relevant, up-to-date print and electronic resources, and one-on-one assistance and training. Such assistance ranges from completing job applications and filing unemployment claims, to registering to vote, and interacting with government agencies and officials. In addition, a new and expanding role for libraries is supporting emergency services. Recent disasters have shown the important role that libraries play in disaster preparedness and recovery efforts.
But if funding for libraries was stretched thin previously, new service roles such as E-Government have put extra stress on libraries’ ability to provide computing, reference, and training services. This is particularly true for smaller and rural libraries, which have neither the staff nor expertise to fill this role. No supplemental funding is allocated to provide training, technology (including broadband services), and the necessary resources to provide a government service that is reliable, trusted, expert and available to citizens in their communities – adding up to an unfunded mandate for libraries. Furthermore, as frontline service providers during emergencies and natural disasters, libraries lack the financial support and coordination with federal, state, and local agencies necessary to deliver these services successfully.
Public Agenda’s 2006 study Long Overdue recognized that libraries had a great opportunity to fill a gap in important community needs by becoming “hubs for improved access to government information and services.” As libraries have provided more E-Government services, use and visibility have increased. At the same time, librarians are confronting issues of privacy and liability as they help users apply for services that require confidential and sensitive data.
Beyond making government more accessible and seamless, E-Government can transform governance and renew democracy in the 21st century The interactivity of the Internet offers the opportunity to create more open and transparent public institutions, empowering a more civically and meaningfully aware public and enabling a connection between constituents, legislators, and government agencies that can deepen the national discourse. Through e-mail, websites and social networking tools, citizens are engaging and communities are growing around issues, parties and candidates.
The library community, government officials and local community leaders can benefit from dialogue and information exchange among themselves and with other experts regarding strategies to harness the power of E-Government. As government agencies expand their E-Government resources and depend more on libraries to provide access and support, librarians need to determine what role they can or should play as primary service providers for E-Government services.
(Nancy Kranich, Introduction to E-Government Issue Map, June 27, 2008)
E-Government and Libraries
August 2003 e-Government Data Set. “Pew Internet and American Life Project.” (June 2003). (accessed June 11, 2014)
Bertot, J. C., Jaeger, P. T., Langa, L. A., and McClure, C.R. "Drafted I Want You to Deliver E-Government." Library Journal 131 (2006): 34-37. (13) issue
http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2006/08/academic-libraries/drafted-i-want-you-to-deliver-e-government/ (accessed June 11, 2014)
Bertot, J. C., Jaeger, P. T., Langa, L. A., and McClure, C.R. Public Access Computing and Internet Access in Public Libraries: The Role of Public Libraries in E-Government and Emergency Situations. (2006) First Monday 11(9) h http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1392 (accessed June 11, 2014)
Bertot, J.C., McClure, C.R., Thomas, S., Barton, K.M., & McGilvray, J. Public Libraries and the Internet 2007: Study Results and Findings (July 2007). Tallahassee, FL: Information Use Management and Policy Institute. http://www.ii.fsu.edu/content/view/full/15164 (accessed June 2, 2010)
Citizens Use Internet Most Often to Contact Federal Agencies: Gallup Study. The Dotgovbuzz 11:4 (November 2009) http://www.usa.gov/dotgovbuzz/1109.html#gallup. (accessed June 11, 2014)
Dovey, Tiffany and Helfrich, Dan. One Size Fits Few: Using Customer Insight to Transform Government A Deloitte Research Study (2008). http://www.boaspraticas.com/xms/files/one_size_fits_few.pdf (accessed June 11, 2014)
E-Gov Progress Report: Six Years In, Has E-Government Changed Agencies? Government Computer News (2008, January) http://gcn.com/articles/2007/01/05/egov-progress-report.aspx (accessed June 11, 2014)
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BEST OF E-GOVERNMENT SERVICES IN LIBRARIES
Lib2Gov.org is a resource for librarians for eGovernment information and engagement. It is for an engagement platform for library and government agency collaboration around digital/e-government services that has been designed with four goals:
The American Place (TAP) is a free library program designed to welcome immigrants and facilitate their transition into their new home city. Services include free English and Citizenship classes, resources for studying at home and assistance with accessing online immigration information. TAPS also recruits and trains volunteer Cultural Navigators to offer mentoring and tutoring support to new arrivals
Balitmarket is the first VSP (The Virtual Supermarket Program) in the nation. It enables neighborhood residents to place grocery orders at their local library branch once a week and receive their groceries the following day at the library for no delivery cost. This increases access to high quality affordable groceries in the very neighborhood that they live in, allowing them to bypass the difficultly and expense of catching multiple bus rides or taxi cabs in order to reach healthier food options. Residents are able to pay with cash, credit, debit and food stamps.
Career Catalyst Program a career program initiative. It is a partnership with Palm Beach Career Catalyst Program Workforce Alliance. The Career Catalyst Program creates and manages employment initiatives to assist unemployed library users in one setting. It was funded by a small grant from IMLS.
collaboration with the Partnership for Strong Families and over 30 other service providers expanding the traditional library role in its community. By sharing space, library staff and social service partners provide coordinated and complementary services to meet a client’s full needs. Alachua County Library District originally became involved with eGovernment through collaboration with NEFLIN (Northeast Florida Library Information Network) to administer a two-year LSTA grant. The grant goals were to research, develop and provide eGovernment service at libraries throughout the north-central Florida region.
NJ Works @ your Library is a granted funded innovative program that helps to connect people with jobs. It is administered on a state level by the New Jersey State Library. The campaign developed by the New Jersey State Library showcases the resources and opportunities being offered through the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP). Workforce Development is an expanded and new service role for libraries. http://njworks.org/
Job in a Box at the Tulare County Public Library in Tulare, Calif. Is funded by a grant program that reaches the unemployed through a book vending machine. Resources in the vending machine target job seekers at One Stop locations
Project Compass Program is a partnership between OCLC and State Library of North Carolina. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) funded Project Compass, a grant initiative to provide resources for libraries to meet the workforce recovery needs of their community. WebJunction and the State Library of North Carolina formed a partnership to design and deliver the Project Compass curriculum and supporting resources. The initiative has provided in-person and online training for 2,500 library staff across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
As the U.S. government's official web portal, USA.gov makes it easy for the public to get U.S. government information and services on the web.
Florida Public Libraries are setting the standard for E-Government services provided in libraries. The state of Florida sets the standard for e-Government on a state level. This site includes resources Policy Considerations: What are the Legal Risks; Best Practices for Patrons Computers; and Legal Information and Resources for Librarians. http://www.egovflorida.org/