Friday, January 21, 2011

Webinar notes: On E-gov and libraries

Again, I am running somewhat behind on my notes for recent webinars I have listened to. Anyhow, here goes. 

Webinar provided by ALA.
Topic title: E-gov: Make it work @ your library
Event date: December 9, 2010.

You can find some notes and additional resource links at the ALA's PLFTA site (click under "Presentations."). Presenter ppt. slides and additional resource links available. 

My notes:

On public libraries and e-gov.:
  • 63% of libraries report providing e-gov access. 
  • For 2010, 53% of libraries reported their staff did not have skills to meet patron needs in regards to e-gov. 
E-gov in public libraries. Some best practices (and even though this is mostly for public libraries, I think us in academia can learn a thing or two as well. Besides, we are librarians, we should not be part of that 53%).
  • Having dedicated computers for e-gov with extended time limits (this is just for e-gov. Often, for the public libraries who get laptops for this, the laptops are funded by a grant). 
  • It is necessary to develop an e-gov policy (and do have it reviewed by a lawyer). The policy is to say what the library can or cannot do in terms of e-gov (levels of service-- i.e. things like we just point to the sites versus help them navigate the site).
  • Other legal stuff: Provide verbal and written disclaimers. Do refrain from helping users fill out forms. Do not select forms for users (show them how to use an index of forms, but let them select the form they need). Refrain from typing any personal information for patrons. 
  • ALA's E-gov toolkit.
  • It is helpful to keep statistics of types of e-gov questions received. This can help with advocacy for the library later. 
  • It is important to promote and market these services. For example, have lists of commonly  used websites, what to bring when filling out forms. Some libraries may have an e-gov blog. (In terms of the blog, I thought we could incorporate more e-gov information into our library blog's content rather than creating a whole new blog)
  • Sample: Pasco County Libraries E-gov page.
Evaluating e-gov sites, with some examples:
  • Some qualities: 
    • quantity and quality of the information. 
    • website presentation and accessibility. 
    • level of information on the site. 
    • services available to the public. 
    • level of accessibility to the disabled or others using alternative technologies. 
    • does the site save time? Are the services intuitive? Does it provide good helping aids for first time users? 
  • Some good site examples: 
Libraries and e-gov: collaboration and education.
  • Some context for the increase in public library use for computers: unemployment benefits, social services, job seekers, other government needs. 
  • Note there are people who cancel the Internet at home to save money (it is a tight economy folks), so libraries see more usage of computers for communication and leisure needs (the whole leisure thing certainly a debate for another day). 
  • From a technology access survey of  public libraries (cited in the presentation): 
    • 66.6% of library branches report being the only provider of free public access computers and free Internet access. 
    • Overall, public library branches report an average of 14 computers for public access plus they often provide wifi. 82.2% of public library branches offer wifi, up from 76.4% in 2008-2009. Overall, library usage is up across the board.
    • 88.8% of public library branches help people understand and use government websites. 

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