In the February 22 blog post we introduced findings from the 2010-2011 Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study (PLFTAS) regarding E-government and job seeking. Figure 38 in the PLFTAS report clearly documents significant amounts of E-government service provision from US public libraries.
But Figures 39-42 also describe the challenges that affect the ability of the public library outlets to help patrons meet their E-government needs. The figures provide overall assessment of the importance of selected challenges as well as an assessment of this importance analyzed by rural, suburban, and urban public libraries.
The top two challenges assessed in overall importance in meeting public library E-government needs are:
- 56% of respondents assessed as “most important” or “important” that the library does not have enough staff to effectively help patrons with their E-government needs; and
- 51% of respondents assessed as “most important” or “important” that the library’s staff does not have the necessary expertise to meet patron E-government needs.
Thus, E-government staffing issues constitute the greatest challenges faced by public libraries in meeting patron E-government user needs.
To some extent, addressing these two challenges requires additional resources to both hire more E-government library staff and then to engage in ongoing training of the staff regarding E-government services and resources (print and web-based). One study (Section 6.3) regarding public librarians as E-government providers concluded:
Librarians expressed concern and anxiety that they are unprepared to provide the [E-government] services requested by users…. As a result, libraries that embrace the role of E-government service provider must pour significant resources into training staff, most often without assistance from local agencies. In short, librarians that engage in the provision of E-government services and resources are self-taught and can often lack an essential programmatic perspective.
The irony, however, is that in difficult economic times, such as those we are experiencing now, the extensive needs of users for E-government and job seeking assistance comes at a time when libraries are least able to hire E-government staff or provide training support.
A quick search on the web and asking selected colleagues found very few formal job descriptions for an E-government librarian (staff or professional). Neither did the search identify many continuing education (CE) opportunities for E-government training, nor formal E-government classes at the various Library Information Science programs outside of the innovative program launched in Fall 2010 at the University of Maryland Center for Library & Information Innovation (now the Information Policy & Access Center).
But there must be more librarian E-government CE opportunities or formal E-government classes or other instructional materials available – perhaps these are in-house and just not publicly available? It would be GREAT if anyone who might be aware of such instructional materials intended to provide basic or updated E-government instruction to librarians would post that information as a comment to this blog.
Dr. McClure is the President of Information Management Consultant Services, LLC, firstname.lastname@example.org