Friday, March 5, 2010

E-Government Services And Public Libraries

The American Library Association recently published A Perfect Storm Brewing: Budget Cuts Threaten Library Services at Time of Increased Demand [11 pp PDF] January 2010. The report included this statistic:

"[From 2007 to 2009] There was a 23 percent jump in libraries reporting they provide ssistance to patrons applying for or accessing e-government services" p. 5

Further discussion on this topic may be found in another ALA report: U.S. Public Libraries and E-Government Services (8 pp PDF] June 2009:

"Increasingly, government agencies refer individuals specifically to their local public libraries for assistance and access to the Internet for citizen-government interactions, but often fail to provide support to libraries in meeting this service need." p. 2

This finding is echoed by many BC public librarians. In particular, Deb Thomas, Deputy Chief & Branch Manager of the Bob Prittie Metrotown Branch, Burnaby Public Library recently stated on a listserv discussion:

"This is not a new issue! I was dealing with it in Nelson over the last decade. As government offices reduce and centralize, many areas that were previously served by live bodies in physical buildings are reduced to phone, Internet or driving a long distance to get the services they need. We had many people coming in to apply for jobs online - big rough-handed logger types who had never used a computer before - or apply for various government services or find information on those services. Here in South Burnaby, it's visas and MSP. Yet few government agencies will formally recognize - with funding - the burden they've placed on public libraries. "

To add to the 'perfect storm' in BC, current economic difficulties have resulted in reduced government funding; provincial government grants to BC public libraries were cut 22% in August of 2009.

No comments: