Library E-Government Services

General E-Government Services Checklist

  • Determine user’s service needs through the reference query.
  • Determine what type of form or service is needed to access local, state, federal or commercial site.
  • Determine where information can be found or if it exists.
  • Determine the information and computer competency level of user through querying.
  • Encourage information/computer-literate users to access services and proceed without help.
  • Determine how much help is needed if it is determined that the user has low literacy and/or computer skills. Consider whether the person can use a mouse, type, use a computer, comprehend information they need to access, etc.
  • Refer users to other library locations that can provide one-on-one help if necessary.
  • Inform users that computers are public and that they need to exit correctly to protect any private information they have entered and close the browser and all programs before logging off the computer.

Federal E-Government Services

The federal government has been at the forefront of developing and implementing E-Government solutions. These range from the familiar online Internal Revenue Service tax forms and filing options to Social Security Administration application forms and more recently include electronic passport applications. In addition, the federal government has embraced E-Government as an educational tool particularly in providing online education programs for new immigrants seeking citizenship and for K-12 support programs within the Department of Education.

Federal E-Government services have become ubiquitous, but few libraries have actually developed policies or procedures for implementing or supporting these services. The suggestions below and throughout this Toolkit are intended to assist in getting such planning underway allowing library staff to provide a quality experience for users.

As the opportunities to interact directly with federal agencies have expanded, so too has the demand for libraries to provide support for these interactions. In order to effectively provide patrons with access to these services libraries should consider the following:

  • Is there a nearby Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) participant that can offer guidance or training about federal electronic resources such as the Federal Digital System, Catalog of Government Publications, Metalib, Ask-a-Librarian: Government Information Online, and AskGPOLocate the closest FDLP. Federal Depository Libraries have knowledge of and experience with a wide range of government publications and Federal e-government information resources including often hard find or obscure government material. These publications and resources can help library patrons identify their representatives in congress, discover legislation that the members of congress are sponsoring or cosponsoring, how their representatives are voting on legislation, discover Federal agencies, learn how to use Federal agencies’ e-government services, and much more. Many of these resources are located on GPO’s FDsys and, in addition, the dedicated and supportive network information professionals of the Federal Depository Library Program are available to help researchers.
  • Determine if the library will focus on only a specific category of services – the “collection development” approach – or will interactions with any federal entity be supported?
  • How will technology to support federal E-Government services be developed? Will it be subsumed under existing costs, or will there be a need for additional equipment and/or tools. Are there grants or funding from federal agencies for libraries to support access to federal E-Government services?
  • How will privacy issues be dealt with? What mechanisms are already in place on public computers to facilitate privacy protection?
  • Are there federal or state laws that will affect how information transmitted to or from federal agencies is stored?
  • Invite local federal agency employees to a conference at your library to provide demonstrations and workshops on how to use their E-Government website. For example, a library in a rural farming community might consider inviting representatives from the Department of Agriculture to discuss services on their site. Or a library could partner with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services which has produced a series of materials to help library staff assist users of online immigration services. (See: http://www.uscis.gov/files/nativedocuments/G-1112.pdf )
  • Are there ways to work with local advocacy groups to develop educational programs for the community that will introduce available E-Government resources? For example, the League of Women Voters might be enlisted during an election year to discuss voting and campaign resources. Or local advocates for the aged might assist area senior services organizations to design training and support for seniors needing to choose a Medicare Part B plan.

State E-Government Services through State Libraries and Other State Agencies

  • Offer to have the library act as the voice of the state’s E-Government services.
  • Volunteer the Reference/Research Department to answer phone calls (e.g., Ask a Librarian link on the portal home page) relating to E-Government questions about state agencies and services.
  • Determine who manages the E-Government portal, whether there is a board or a department managing the site, whether it is possible for a library staff member to become a member of the board and/or attend meetings to understand the work of the board or department and the demands it is facing.
  • Work with the E-Government administrative body to offer content suggestions, webpage edits, and other ideas that will make the web portal easier for librarians and the public to navigate.
  • Instruct reference staff to keep logs of requests for information that they cannot find or had difficulty finding.
  • Help provide better services by offering suggestions for driving more users or business to the library’s website and encouraging competition for awards for the best of the web.
  • Invite state E-Government reference experts to offer demonstrations and take them on the road to other public libraries in the state. Invite portal employees to the state library conference to provide demos and workshops on how to use the E-Government website.
  • Negotiate for free or reduced fees for specific applications that will benefit the library in return for efforts on behalf of state government.
  • Offer to test applications that are being considered for state E-Government use that will also benefit the library and negotiate for free or reduced fees for these applications if they are accepted.

Sample State E-Government Effort:

E-Government Services through Public Libraries

Public libraries are essential providers of E-Government services and resources. In areas hit by natural disasters, they are on the front line assisting users in filing government claims. With the increase in unemployment in 2009 and 2010, more people than ever are using free public library computers to file for benefits, use library resources to access information about jobs and complete online employment applications. Many of these users are unfamiliar with computers and online resources. Government agencies refer individuals specifically to their local public libraries for help. ALA has produced a document titled: “Public Libraries and E-Government Services,” ( http://connect.ala.org/node/104100 ) which describes how public libraries are implementing various strategies to best serve their community with E-Government services.

E-Government Services through Academic and Special Libraries

Academic libraries focus their services on their primary user groups including faculty, students, and institutional staff. These particular user groups often have specific types of E-Government service needs. For example, many students may need assistance with online filing of tax or voter registration forms. Faculty and staff may need assistance with submitting grant applications or accessing research data. Providing support for these types of services has long been part of academic libraries’ role on college and university campuses and has not changed as these services have moved into the online environment.

Some academic libraries may be challenged by requests to provide support for E-Government services to those outside of their primary users groups. Computer access and security policies may limit access to citizens without an institutional affiliation. Some libraries may have difficulty providing the level of assistance some citizens may need to access E-Government services.

It is imperative that academic libraries assess these challenges and create policies that clearly define the access and level of service that will be provided to non-affiliated users of E-Government services. Factors that may influence access policies include:

  • Is the library a member in the Federal Depository Library Program or a state or local government depository program? If so, programs usually require libraries to provide access and support for citizens accessing E-Government services.
  • Does the academic institution receive government-funded grants that may require citizen access to institutional resources?
  • Is the academic institution interested in fostering local community relations? If so, providing access and support for E-Government services to non-affiliated local community members may be beneficial to those efforts.
  • Is the public library in the academic institution’s local community well supported and able to provide support for citizen access to E-Government services? Understanding public library policies and resources can assist academic librarians in making good referrals and may influence how they shape their own access policies.

E-Government Services through School Libraries

School teachers and students use school libraries for E-Government services including filing No Child Left Behind "highly qualified" reports and teacher certification forms, researching government programs and communicating with government agencies. Other potential uses include financial aid applications for college and researching national service opportunities. School Librarians instruct students and classroom teachers about the information and services available through E-Government resources. They also collaborate with classroom teachers to integrate E-Government resources into the curriculum.

Related

Examples of E-Government Services and Forms
Used by the Public in Libraries

Federal

  1. Information by Topic
    http://www.usa.gov/
  2. Job Applications for Federal Jobs:
    Federal Job Listings 
    Federal Job Forms
  3. Federal Disaster Assistance
    Federal Emergency Management Agency
  4. Medicare prescription drug coverage plans
    Medicaid & Medicare
    Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder
  5. Immigration information and forms on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
    http://www.uscis.gov/
  6. Naturalization Information
    http://www.uscitizenship.info/
  7. Department of Family and Children Programs
    http://www.aphsa.org/Links/links-state.asp
  8. Veterans Administration
  9. Student Aid http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/index.jsp
  10. Federal Bureau of Prisons – Locate an inmate 
    http://www.bop.gov/iloc2/LocateInmate.jsp

State

  1. All 50 State Governments & Agencies
    http://www.usa.gov/Agencies/State_and_Territories.shtml  
  2. Voters Registration
    http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Voting/Register.shtml
  3. Job Applications for State Government
    http://www.thejobpage.gov/statelocal.asp
  4. National Center for State Courts
    http://www.ncsconline.org/
    State Courts Website
    http://www.ncsconline.org/D_KIS/info_court_web_sites.html#State

Local

Local government information may be found on local sites in various cities, counties and jurisdictions. 

  1. Applications for jobs for local government
    http://www.governmentjobs.com
  2. Examples of local  E-Government Services
    http://www.cobbcountyga.gov/egov.htm (Cobb County, GA)
    http://www.fresno.gov/Government/eGov/Default.htm (Fresno, CA)
    http://lawrenceks.org/egov (Lawrence, KS)
  3. Legal Information & Forms:
    http://www.in.gov/judiciary/selfservice/forms.html