The American Library Association and the Information Policy & Access Center at the University of Maryland College Park (ipac.umd.edu) launched a project, Libraries & E-Government: New Partnerships in Public Service, in recognition of the expanding role of the public library in the provision of e-government services. Funded through a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the project, focuses on the development of an online resource that will assist public librarians to better meet the e-government needs of the communities they serve. Through this resource, the goals of the project are to 1) assist libraries to provide essential e-government services to their communities; 2) work with federal, state, and local agencies to develop partnerships to facilitate e-government services; and 3) develop a range of collective support tools, templates, and training material that help libraries engage in e-government services rather than each library working on its own.
This project continues in the tradition of ALA’s e-government focus, incorporating information in the E-Government Toolkit established by the Committee on Legislation’s E-Government Services Subcommittee and involving extensive project leadership by Jessica McGilvray, Assistant Director, Office of Government Relations, American Library Association – Washington Office. Drs. John Bertot and Paul Jaeger (co-directors of iPAC) serve as project directors for the University of Maryland.
Research for the website has included visits to libraries across the nation that have been recognized as e-government service providers relating to tax services, immigration services, and government-library partnership development, including the Hartford Public Library, the Austin Public Library, and the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. From these visits, as well as discussions with government officials, experts in the library and information science fields, and representatives from state and public libraries, the team has identified a number of challenges that hinder the provision of e-government services in public libraries. These challenges include patrons’ lack of access to the Internet or computers outside of the library, digital literacy skills needed to access e-government services, and basic literacy and/or civics literacy skills. As such, the web resource will directly address the need for assistance in these areas.
In response to these challenges, many libraries, government agencies, and community organizations have already begun to form partnerships to address the growing e-government needs of members of their communities. From the site visits and research, the team not only was able to view several successful programs in action, but also to develop guidelines for what makes these partnerships work so well. As an example, two of the guidelines dictate that 1) the collaborating agencies view the partnership as a means to extend government services to the intended recipients, rather than as a means to shift provision costs and 2) the collaborating agencies consider each other’s feedback regarding e-government service design and delivery. These are among the many models for successful e-government partnerships identified through this research that can be used by libraries as they develop and implement services in this area.
The culmination of the project, the e-government partnerships web resource, will build on these existing partnership examples, both online and community-oriented, as well as the lessons offered within them. The team begins usability testing on the site in March 2012.
The executive summary, released January 21st provides greater detail on the project thus far.
Federal agency project partners include the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), and the Government Printing Office (GPO). State partners include state library agencies in Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and Texas. Library partners include Alachua County Public Library (FL), Austin Public Library (TX), Baltimore County Public Library (MD), Caroline County Public Library (MD), Cobb County Public Library (GA), Hartford Public Library (CT), Montgomery County Public Library (MD), Newark Public Library (NJ), and Pasco County Public Library (FL). Additional partners include the New Jersey Library Association, Towson University (MD), and the University of Illinois Chicago (IL).
About ALA E-Government
ALA E-Government Services Subcommittee
Charge: To develop policy recommendations, legislative proposals and other strategies for the ALA Committee on Legislation related to the role of libraries and the delivery of E-Government services to the American public. The subcommittee shall seek involvement from the broadest range of interested units within ALA and promote collaboration to determine and meet the needs for policy, training, research, legislation and other activities related to libraries and E-Government services.
The Information Policy & Access Center (iPAC) is a response to the pressing need for research on the processes, practices, policies, and social issues that govern access to information in our increasingly digital information society. We at iPAC are committed to studying what policies and/or technologies lead to equitable and inclusive information access, a digitally literate population, an informed and engaged public, or access Internet-enabled resources and technologies, among key examples. iPAC aspires to be an innovative and forward looking research and education facility that explores social, policy, and technology aspects of information access and use across cultural institutions, government agencies, and other information-based organizations; communities; and populations. More information on iPAC and its research is available at ipac.umd.edu. Graduate research support on this project is provided by Ursula Gorham-Oscilowski, Natalie Greene, Elizabeth Larson, and Ruth Lincoln.
For additional information regarding the project, contact Jessica McGilvray (firstname.lastname@example.org) or John Bertot (email@example.com).