Your E-Government Experiences
Please take a moment and tell us about some of your E-Government Services experiences; either in providing them or receiving them.
The State Librarian, or his designee (in this case, me), is on the InforMe Board." InforMe is a public/private partnership created by an act of the Maine State Legislature to build a portal network ([Maine.gov]) for public information. The Board also drives policy and procedure for the portal's network. InforMe hires a private contractor to operate and maintain the portal and to create new services for the public.
The Maine State Library functions as Maine.gov's Ask a Librarian link. When a caller asks if he has been connected with the State of Maine's operator (as if there was such a thing), we answer "yes, of course!"
Reference librarians are or will soon become well-versed in the offerings of dozens of agencies, commissions and departments. Callers are often looking for forms, rules and guidelines, phone numbers, locations of agencies, publications, and a variety of how-to's.
Since Maine.gov is not monolithic and individual agency web sites may and do vary in the amount of information provided, this can make the job of a reference librarian more difficult. The vendor operating and maintaining the Maine.gov portal may contract with other agencies for web site development but there is nothing to prevent an agency from contracting with another company or setting up a web page independently. Those sites must comply with basic portal structures and back-end requirements, however.
Having a representative from the State Library on the InforMe Board ensures that State Library reference librarians, as well as public, school, and academic library staff, will have representational input on how the portal is organized, developed and searched. Librarians are very often the first point of contact for customers of the portal's services who are frustrated with the lack of search results, have no idea that Maine.gov exists, are lost within an agency's web site, or just want to hear a non-recorded human voice.
For Maine to be successful in providing online services to the public, it is essential that librarians be involved in the development of the portal and being among the first to know about service enhancements. It makes our jobs easier and our ability to serve the public more successful. Dean Corner
In the state of Georgia commercial truck drivers are required to renew their CDL license. When it was time to renew this time all libraries in Georgia had an influx of truck drivers who were referred to the library to renew their license. Renewing required viewing an online video and answering some questions online. It also required an e-mail address to receive the confirmation when they finished. Many of the truck drivers had never used a computer before. We assisted many with getting e-mail addresses and practically took many of them through the entire process. For those truck drivers who had some experience with computers it took sometimes a day or two to renew. Before they could renew we had to get many of them to understand how to get an e-mail address, then how to get to the site and navigate the site. Truck drivers who had previous computer experience; had an e-mail address;and understood how to use a computer renewed their license in about 2 hours with no problem. Two hours is the time limit for the library system for which I work for computer usage per day.
One truck driver's story stands out in my memory. He came to the library and you could tell he was sick. He confided in me that he had just completed cancer treatment. He looked very feeble. He said he had to renew his license before it expired by the end of the week. We put him on a computer with his library card and after two hours he had gotten no where. After talking with him we figured out he had no computer experience and had actually never used one before. After we got passed this part and he went through all the steps, we figured out he had to do it again because he didn't have an e-mail address. After he got an e-mail address he tried again and when he finished and tried to get his renewal certificate we discovered he had written the email address down incorrectly. The next step he took was to bring his son with him, a teenager to help. They accomplished most of it but were still not able to finish because the son did not understand the logistics of renewing and how to navigate the site. Finally after a week although he still did not get his information sent to the correct e-mail address, I made a call for him to the authorities responsible for the test and asked if they could retrieve his information and fax his certificate showing he completed his requirements to the library. They did and after a week of trying and trying his license was renewed. Pat Ball