Volume 28, Number 2, Summer 2006

Libraries Play Growing Roles in Digital Government

by: Diana Paque, ASCLA President

Those of us who spend a considerable number of our waking hours glued to our computers are aware of the increasing variety of resources available to us online. Government sources are no exception. But in the move from traditional print information to online access, unintended consequences occur -- both positive and negative. Positive consequences include:

  • access to information from governmental entities for whom information was either previously unavailable or limited in distribution;
  • access to information of many types at all levels of government, some on a real-time basis;
  • direct information to the public providing greater visibility for the work of the public sector; and
  • innovative ways for government to facilitate collaboration between the public and private sector.
Negative consequences include:
  • lack of clarity and consistency in policies and procedures for archiving and preservation of materials;
  • reduced editorial scrutiny on electronic resources, compared with previously published materials;
  • inconsistent vetting which obscures authoritativeness of information;
  • considerable variation in system architecture and data, which can impede compilation and use of data; and
  • potential security issues both for agencies and for citizens seeking to interact with government entities online.
As organizations who are either part of government or who work closely with governmental agencies, library agencies have been working to deal with and plan for some of these consequences. We have a long history of archiving government information, and the move to electronic information further muddies already murky waters. Over the last several years, a number of partnerships have developed to assess the impacts of e-government and deal with electronic government sources' specific implications for libraries and library services. This issue reports on a number of these endeavors.

In addition, ASCLA is scheduling a number of terrific programs at the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans. We are partnering with LAMA for a whole Sunday filled with programs about planning for the future of libraries, particularly related to how we plan and prepare for our future staff needs. I strongly encourage you to come to New Orleans, support the city by your presence, and participate in some creative and dynamic professional development opportunities. See you in New Orleans!