Public Libraries, Values, Trust, and E-Government

Paul T. Jaeger, Kenneth R. Fleischmann


As public libraries are becoming e-government access points relied on by both patrons and government agencies, it is important for libraries to consider the implications of these roles. While providing e-government access serves to reinforce the tremendously important role of public libraries in the United States social infrastructure, it also creates new demands on libraries and opens up significant new opportunities. Drawing upon several different strands of research, this paper examines the nexus of public libraries, values, trust, and e-government, focusing on the ways in which the values of librarianship and the trust that communities place in their public libraries reinforce the role of public libraries in the provision of e-government. The unique values embraced by public libraries have not only shaped the missions of libraries, they have influenced popular opinion surrounding public libraries and fostered the confidence that communities place in them as a source of trusted information and assistance in finding information. As public libraries have embraced the provision of Internet access, these values and trust have become intertwined with their new social role as a public access point for e-government both in normal information activities and in the most extreme circumstances. This paper explores the intersections of these issues and the relation of the vital e-government role of public libraries to library funding, public policy, library and information science education, and research initiatives.

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