Public Libraries in Smart Cities and Communities Toolbox
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Public Services Support
Public services are services usually provided by local governments and are intended to serve all members of a community. As a community hub with a wide reach to local residents, your public library may act as an intermediary between residents and governments in offering key public information about government policies, programs, and services, and to make sure that residents do not only access public services but that also take advantage of them in a way that impacts their quality of life, which is one of the ultimate goals of a smart city/community.
As a trusted community organization, your public library welcomes all kinds of people, often placing special attention to underserved communities, such as minorities, immigrants, and low-income families.
To help residents further enjoy public services in your smart community, consider the diversity of your patrons in terms of their backgrounds and needs (including the difficulties they may experience to benefit from public services) and provide public services support through different kinds of programs and services. Through information and training sessions, one-to-one consultations, and the use of your website, among other, you can not only raise awareness of the public services available for your community residents, but also, to help them apply for them.
For example, if your strategic plan identifies veterans as one important type of patrons for your public library, you may want to set up a veteran resources center to help veterans find information and resources about benefits and targeted local services. Similarly, if your community is particularly populated with immigrants, you may want to schedule one-to-one consultation sessions about the use of technology in your library to look for job opportunities and legal assistance. Supporting your different types of patrons in their development as smart citizens by enhancing their digital literacy skills, will help them take better advantage of public resources and services and, as a result, to improve their quality of life.
Supporting residents to access public services does not necessarily entail a big investment. You may already have expertise and knowledge in information and training sessions as well as on one-to-one consultations that you can build on. Start getting familiar with government websites that include services that you think may be attractive for your patrons and explore the processes and requirements. You may want to consider implementing a popular program where teens help senior citizens in the use of computers or tablets to browse government sites and find information about public services, such as healthcare programs.
Partnering with your local government may also be a good idea to raise awareness about the local public services available for your community. Your local government could, for example, provide training to your library staff on issues such as eligibility for various government benefits and services. You could also invite government staff to assist patrons and provide and keep information kiosks in the library.
General resources on public service support:
ALA—Library E-Government Services Toolkit: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/advleg/federallegislation/govinfo/egovernment/egovtoolkit/libgov
E-Government: Service Roles for Public Libraries: http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2013/04/e-government-service-roles-for-public-libraries/
Social Role of the Library: http://www.ala.org/tools/research/librariesmatter/category/social-role-library
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