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Public Libraries and EGovernment

“So what exactly does OITP do?” A couple of months ago, I began working here at the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), and curious friends and family members keep asking me this question. Thankfully, right after I started, the OITP Advisory Board had a strategic retreat where that exact answer was given in great detail. One of the items that OITP does is to identify IT issues affecting libraries, convene meetings with experts to discuss the issue and report back to members via a publication or other action.

An issue currently on OITP’s radar is that of Electronic Government (E-Government). E-Government is the use of information technology by government, at all levels, to communicate and/or conduct business with its citizens, businesses, other government entities, etc. E-Government is sometimes used in a variety of ways, including:
· Filing taxes

· Applying for grants, including financial aid for students or for disaster relief.
· Registering for the Medicare Part D prescription coverage
· Dissemination of government information
· Soliciting comments on proposed regulations

Some E-Government activities require a connection to the Internet (others might require a fax machine, email or other software/equipment), and not all US households have a connection to the Internet or the necessary equipment to use E-Government. In some cases, citizens require assistance in order to find and/or use the necessary resources to participate in E-Government. So where do they turn? To their public library.

Public libraries are increasingly called upon by patrons and the government to provide E-Government capabilities, often without funding for the effort put forth. The Information Use, Management and Policy Institute at Florida State University and ALA/OITP are sponsoring a meeting in Atlanta, GA over the next few days to discuss how public libraries are affected by E-Government. Librarians, scholars and government officials will also discuss strategies for providing E-Government activities at public libraries. Highlights of the meetings will be posted as special dispatches to the District Dispatch blog and a formal report will be made available soon after the meeting for ALA members and the public to find out more about this fascinating issue.

So what does your library do in order to facilitate e-government in your community? Please leave them as comments to this post for readers of the dispatch to read.

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Jacob Roberts is the communications specialist for the ALA Washington Office.

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