Monday, February 12, 2007

Public Librarians: e-Gov Officers and Corporate HR Reps?

EGovA Library Journal article (found via from August 2006 titled Drafted: I Want You To Deliver E-Government discusses the impact of e-government on public libraries. E-Government "refers to government’s use of information and communication technology (ICT) to exchange information and services with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government." (wikipedia)

How does E-Gov affect public libraries? "Government agencies now refer people to public libraries to receive both access to and assistance with online services." We helped people when they had to sign up for the mandatory federal Medicare prescription drug coverage plans. We helped people apply for hurricane assistance. We help people find tax forms online. Immigrants use our computers to complete forms vital to their immigration process. Students use our computers to apply for loans.

They often ask for assistance in filling out those forms. The type of assistance needed can fall under two main categories. First, many people who are using public library computers to fill out government forms do not have a computer at home. If a person does not have a computer at home, the percentage is higher that they do not have the computer skills needed to fill out an online form. Second, even if someone was an expert with the computer, they may have questions regarding the forms themselves. These questions have historically been directed towards the government officers that worked in the office that provided the forms.

The authors suggest that public libraries have been "drafted" into a new role without proper funding and training. And while we have a history of providing Government Publications and forms, there is no doubt that this role has expanded exponentially.

JobAppParallel to this theme is the recent trend of businesses placing their applications online. Many people are being directed to public libraries in order to fill out job applications. Many of these people are not familiar with a computer. Also, these customers will ask us questions that have historically been directed towards the company's Human Resources staff.

This is also a new role that we have acquired.

Without delving into whether or not we are being properly funded for these new roles, how do we prepare ourselves to better assist these customers?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The concept of "drafted by e-gov/commerce" got my attention. Beginning in early Jan., We at Frayser were constantly asked by customers with limited computer skills to find their W-2 forms online.
Happily for them (and us) we were able to meet this challenge most of the time.
Dean Moore