Service Level Policies
Libraries of all types offer a wide array of E-Government services. Because these services can demand extensive involvement and interpretation by staff and more personal information from users, libraries need to determine which services they will provide (including medical, legal and tax advice), to whom and at what levels. Such policies may overlap with those in place for general reference, circulation, Internet use, and other library services. They will also require libraries to determine how to protect privacy and intellectual freedom for users who are supplying highly confidential information through the library’s computer network.
Liability touches on a variety of legal and ethical considerations – from local bar rules against providing legal advice to national laws affecting health records. Any institution considering a formal E-Government Service would be well advised to consult with their local counsel (university counsel, city solicitor’s office, etc.) before implementing such a service.
E-Government Reference Service Policies
Below are suggestions and considerations when creating and/or updating your policies:
- Determine a definition and scope of E-Government service that reflects staff input and is officially adopted by the library’s governance structure (Board, Administration, etc.).
- Determine whether you will limit service to government or include nonprofit assistance sites.
- Identify and make readily accessible a list of popular local, state, and federal websites.
- Provide FAQ’s written in laypeople’s terms.
- Decide on the appropriate length for scheduled appointments, particularly for those who are novices at computer and E-Government use and need bilingual assistance.
- Reinforce that library staff can provide assistance locating government information but cannot complete or submit forms for users.
- Consider policy implications for Internet use, privacy, intellectual freedom, and staff liability.
- Review and revise Internet use, privacy and confidentiality policies to reflect E-Government services.
- Determine how and which staff will become aware of personally “sensitive” information communicated by users and how they should deal with these issues.
- Implement sound privacy practices that shield personal information on computer screens from other library users and protect social security and other personal data entered into computers.
- Develop disclaimers regarding:
- Staff liability
- Protection of personal information
- Electronic transmission of documents (privacy and technical failures)
- Content found on other websites
- Library, library staff, and agencies not being responsible for approval of benefits
- Library and library staff not serving as agents of social service or government agencies.
- Review legal, tax, and medical information liability policies and procedures.
- Consult with local attorneys, board of directors, and administration.
- Clarify which services will not be supported by staff (i.e., legal, financial, medical or other advice).
- Advise staff on how to communicate that individuals are responsible for making their own decisions about E-Government services.
- Offer staff training on specialized E-Government resources that include social skills for dealing with users in need of counseling or other special treatment (e.g. how to deal with distraught patrons, crisis intervention, communicating/ collaborating with agencies and their representatives, etc.).
- Relax library cell phone policies or have a telephone available for patrons to use to call for assistance, either to call home for more information or to call agencies for assistance.
- Let users know that library staff members are not representatives of the government and/or social service agencies.
- Provide both online and print lists of answers to frequently asked E-Government questions.
- Provide a method for non-English speakers to receive assistance through an interpreter or language line service.
- Provide guidance through signs and log-in introduction screens. Include items typically needed to access online information such as a personal e-mail address to access many sites, work history for job application sites, etc.
- Encourage users to check to make sure they have the following information before they fill our forms or access services online:
- Email address – how to obtain and use one
- Social Security number
- Work history if searching for a job online
- Mechanism for saving computer work (online, flash drive, etc.)
- Strive for equal access for patrons who are physically and/or intellectually challenged.
- The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA – PL 101-336) provides that all people with disabilities shall have equal access to employment, public services and accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications services.
- Libraries should make reasonable efforts to ensure equal access to all Americans. (http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/ppo/programming/changingface/complyingada.cfm)
- The guidelines set forth by The World Wide Consortium (W3C), “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0” are acceptable standards by most disabled Americans. ( http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/WAI-WEBCONTENT-19990505/)
- Other Useful websites:
- CAST: Center for Applied Special Technology
- National Center for Accessible Media
- Blindness Resource Center
- World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
E-Government Computer Access Policies
Below are suggestions and considerations when creating and/or updating your policies.
- Require users to view (paper or “click through”) the library’s E-Government policy before using library computers for E-Government purposes. You may want to require users to sign a disclaimer.
- Define time periods for computer use which may or may not be longer than general use, particularly for those with little experience using computers, language difficulties, disabilities, or other issues.
- Provide public training on E-Government websites and information.
- Develop basic computer training tools for novices such as video tutorials, basic computer classes– formal or informal, cheat sheets, mouse tutorials, etc.
- Design a computer-training program for novices, either on demand at point of contact or through formal classes.
- Consider offering special classes focused specifically on E-Government.
- Develop a computer skills checklist for determining need of staff support, training, or extended time periods of use.
- Create a disclaimer statement stating that the library is not responsible for either the accuracy or the transmission of a form or other information intended for submission to a government entity.
- Limit E-Government computers to specific sites or activities using software designed exclusively for this purpose (i.e., Internet Explorer and Content Advisor).
- Locate E-Government computers near the staff so that staff can observe computer activity.
- Provide links to federal, state, and local E-Government websites for easy access, both on-site and remotely.
- Provide a business-size card to patrons so they may enter the website they are accessing, their username and password.
- Publish online and in print a list of documents and other paperwork that library users should bring with them when completing forms (i.e., insurance policy information, social security numbers of family members, etc.).
- Teach users how to protect personal and sensitive information when using public computers.
- Alert users that they could lose their work when the allotted computer time expires and that some government websites time out if a person takes too long adding information to the page.
- Provide a high speed broadband Internet connection at sufficient bandwidth to ensure capacity to access various formats online.
- Bandwidth is the capacity or the amount of bit/s kbits or mbits that a connection is able to carry.
- Broadband, as defined by the FCC, is high-speed Internet connection that transmits data at more than 200 kilobits per second (Kbps), or 200,000 bits per second in one direction upstream or downstream. High-speed transmission technologies considered as broadband include:
- Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)
- Cable Modem
- Broadband over Powerlines (BPL)
- Fiber to the Library: How Public Libraries Can Benefit from Using Fiber Optics for their Broadband Internet Connection (pdf, ALA, OITP, September 1, 2009) recommends fiber as the best access to online information.
- Libraries are urged to carefully consider how providing E-Government services will comport with any existing policies affecting the public’s ability to download or upload information on the Internet using library supplied equipment. Additionally, many interactive government forms, such as IRS forms, which require considerable time to complete cannot be copied or saved either locally or on the Internet. Libraries offering E-Government services will also need to consider how the types of automatic “timeouts” often used on public workstations will affect the public’s ability to use E-Government services.
E-Government Security Issues
Below are suggestions and considerations when creating and/or updating your security policies and procedures:
- Post information making the public aware that the computers in the library are public computers and that they need to take responsibility for guarding their personal information.
- Assist the public with logging completely off computers after they have entered personal or private information.
- Guide the public with an E-Government services checklist. (See E-Government Reference Service Points above.)
- Secure public computers by starting them clean each day and ensuring they self clean between users.