Volume 28, Number 2, Summer 2006

Government Portals Offer Opportunities to Showcase Library Services

by Brenda Bailey-Hainer, Director of Networking and Resource Sharing, Colorado State Library

Like their counterparts in many other states, Colorado state government has launched an online portal. This initiative, designed to give residents better access to state government services and information 24-7, has provided the Colorado State Library (CSL) an opportunity to expose state officials not normally aware of library services to the benefits libraries offer.

In late 2005, Governor Bill Owens requested that Live Help, a service for answering questions online, be one of the first services released through the nascent state portal. Colorado Interactive, the company that provides state portal services, originally planned to start their own help service staffed from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M., Monday through Friday. Instead, CSL was able to persuade Colorado Interactive to join AskColorado, a collaborative virtual reference service provided by 63 libraries throughout the state, and become some of 340-plus staff answering questions using the service’s Tutor.com subscription.

This partnership has been highly successful for both Colorado Interactive and AskColorado. Colorado Interactive was able to roll out the Live Help service on a 24-7 basis immediately and to made use of the more sophisticated software features of Tutor.com that are not available through the live chat software used in other state portals. In addition to providing service during off-hours, AskColorado staff is able to back up Live Help during the day, when the service is busier than Colorado Interactive staff can handle. In return, a direct link to AskColorado is included on the portal Web site in addition to the Live Help button.

An added benefit to the partnership has been the increased visibility that the CSL and the Colorado library community have gained with government officials. At monthly portal oversight board meetings, Colorado Interactive has highlighted Live Help and praised librarians for their invaluable assistance. The board is comprised of a combination of state government officials, legislators, and appointees from private industry. These include the secretary of state, the state chief information officer, and the head of the governor’s office of state planning and budgeting – state officials to whom CSL normally does not have direct access while the legislature is in session and state budgeting discussions are taking place. After the Governor’s office issued a press release about the Live Help service and the partnership with libraries, the Colorado Municipal League ran an article about the partnership in its newsletter. This helped make county and city officials more aware of the essential role that their local libraries play in providing information to residents from throughout the state.

More opportunities abound for partnerships between libraries and government to provide digital government services. Both types of organizations can benefit from jointly creating services that benefit their local residents. Take the initiative and contact them!

For more information, contact Brenda Bailey-Hainer.