The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) announced today a $99,713 [laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program (LB21)] grant to the Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany for a national forum that will lead to a better understanding of how public libraries help citizens engage with local governments.
More and more local governments are investing in open government initiatives. Public libraries are integral partners in these local open government “ecosystems.” The ecosystems feature relationships of mutual interdependence with community organizations like social service nonprofits, civil society organizations, businesses, and libraries. As the public increasingly accesses government information and services at libraries, it is important for libraries and local governments to understand how best to work together to meet public needs. The project will include a concept paper, use of online tools to solicit input from stakeholders, a face-to-face workshop, and a widely distributed report.
“Public libraries have always helped citizens find information about local government programs and services,” said IMLS Director Susan Hildreth. “As government agencies provide more services online, public libraries are taking on an ever greater role in connecting the public to these services. We are pleased to be supporting a project that explores ways libraries and local government can collaboratively partner to enhance civic engagement.”
“One missing element in our efforts to create more open governments is full understanding of the role of public libraries in the larger open government ecosystem,” said Theresa Pardo, CTG Director. “Citizens regularly turn to their public libraries for help when engaging with government, but how new investments in open government are influencing the nature and frequency of interactions between citizens and libraries is unclear. This grant will be instrumental in building new understanding of the current and future role of public libraries in the open government ecosystem.”
Through a briefing paper and national forum slated for 2014, the project will explore:
- Issues faced by local governments and public libraries in building open government partnerships in the context of a community information ecosystem;
- Benefits and opportunities such partnerships would offer to both types of entities;
- Capabilities needed by librarians and local government officials that would be prerequisites to engaging in partnerships; and
- Environmental or ecosystem factors that could facilitate the development of effective partnerships.
Ultimately, UAlbany’s LB21 project will propose actionable models to guide public libraries and local governments as they work together to support and enhance open government and transparency initiatives. The LB21 invests in the nation’s information infrastructure by funding projects designed to address the education and training needs of the professionals who help build, maintain, and provide public access to the world’s wide-ranging information systems and sources.