Monday, October 04, 2010

Putting Citizens First

I’ve been watching the #gov20 Twitter stream since the Government2.0 summit last month (the few times I actually feel like I have a moment to look at Twitter, that is!) Through the stream, I learned about a great white paper called “Putting Citizens First: Transforming Online Government” (PDF) that was put together by the Federal Web Managers council.

What struck me about it most was that you could pretty much exchange the terms "government" and "agencies" with "library" and "libraries" and the paper would often be right on the mark.

A case in point:

… promise the American people that when they need [library] information and services online, they will be able to:

  • Easily find relevant, accurate, and up-to-date information;
  • Understand information the first time they read it;
  • Complete common tasks efficiently;
  • Get the same answer whether they use the web, phone, email, live chat, read a brochure, or visit in-person;
  • Provide feedback and ideas and hear what the government will do with them;
  • Access critical information if they have a disability or aren’t proficient in English.


Establish Web Communications as a core [library] function

One of the biggest problems we face in improving [library] websites is that many [libraries] still view their website as an IT project rather than as a core business function. Many [library] websites lack a dedicated budget. Only a minority of [libraries] have developed strong web policies and management controls. Some have … “legacy” websites with outdated or irrelevant content. With limited resources, many find it difficult to solicit regular customer input and take quick action to improve their sites. While there are many effective [library] websites, most web teams are struggling to manage ...

...[Libraries] should be required to fund their “virtual” [community] space as part of their critical infrastructure, in the same way they fund their “bricks and mortar” [community] space.

[Libraries] should be required to appoint an editor-in-chief for every website they maintain, as do the top commercial websites. This person should be given appropriate funding and authority to develop and enforce web policies and publishing standards, including ensuring that prime real estate on [library] websites is dedicated to helping people find the information they need.

[Library management] should develop standard job descriptions and core training requirements so [libraries] can hire and retain highly qualified experts in web content and new media—not just IT specialists.

And there are other points as salient for libraries as they are for other governmental agencies, such as these report sections/headings:
  • Help the public complete common [library] tasks efficiently
  • Clean up the clutter so people can find what they need online
  • Engage the public in a dialogue to improve our customer service
  • Ensure underserved populations can access critical information online

The whole report is worth reading (and it's pretty quick to do so, at just 4 pages), so I won't elaborate on those sections here. Overall, it left me feeling that we (governmental agencies and libraries) ALL have a lot of work to do.

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