Connecting government, libraries and communities: Information behavior theory and information intermediaries in the design of LibEGov.org

  • Paul T. Jaeger University of Maryland, College Park
  • Ursula Gorham University of Maryland, College Park
  • John Carlo Bertot University of Maryland, College Park
  • Natalie Greene Taylor University of Maryland, College Park
  • Elizabeth Larson University of Maryland, College Park
  • Ruth Lincoln University of Maryland, College Park
  • Jonathan Lazar Towson University & Shutzer Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
  • Brian Wentz Shippensburg University
Keywords: Information Literacy, Information seeking behavior, E-government

Abstract

As e-government grows in scope and complexity, an increasing number of e-government services have surpassed the digital technology access and literacy of many members of the public. The “digitally excluded” often seek information intermediaries — such as public libraries and other community anchor institutions — to bridge their information needs and e-government systems. The purpose of this paper is to examine the phenomenon of user-librarian-agency government interaction within the context of the information worlds framework. In this paper, the authors describe the data — surveys, case studies, interviews, site visits, and usability and accessibility testing — used to analyze the needs of the public, libraries, and government agencies. The paper then describes how the authors, using key concepts from the theory of information worlds, developed an online resource to assist information intermediaries. The study yields findings about libraries as a social institution, as well as expands upon the theory of information worlds so that it better reflects the information behavior and needs of meso level institutions. By examining the development of this resource through the lens of the theory of information worlds and within the context of digital inclusion, this paper offers a new perspective on how libraries can best facilitate information access between government agencies and members of the public. Moreover, the diversity and dispersion of the group of meso level institutions studied revealed the need to consider a new element within this theory: bridges that serve as tangible (physical or digital) mechanisms and channels that facilitate the exchange of information and interaction across boundaries.

Author Biographies

Paul T. Jaeger, University of Maryland, College Park

Paul T. Jaeger, Ph.D., J.D., is Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Information Policy and Access Center and in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. His research focuses on the ways in which law and public policy shape information behavior. He is the author of more than one hundred and twenty journal articles and book chapters, along with seven books. His most recent book is Disability and the Internet: Confronting a Digital Divide (Lynne Reiner, 2011). Dr. Jaeger is Co-Editor of Library Quarterly and Co-Editor of the Information Policy Book Series from MIT Press.

Ursula Gorham, University of Maryland, College Park

Ursula Gorham is a doctoral candidate in the College of Information Studies and a Graduate Research Associate at the Information Policy & Access Center. She holds a law degree, as well as graduate degrees in library science and public policy, from the University of Maryland.  She is admitted to practice in Maryland, and her research is focused on the accessibility of legal information and court documents.

John Carlo Bertot, University of Maryland, College Park

John Carlo Bertot is Professor and co-director of the Information Policy & Access Center in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. He is President of the Digital Government Society of North America and serves as chair of the International Standards Organization’s Library Performance Indicator (ISO 11620) working group. John is Editor of Government Information Quarterly and co-Editor of The Library Quarterly. Over the years, John has received funding for his research from the National Science Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Government Accountability Office, the American Library Association, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Natalie Greene Taylor, University of Maryland, College Park

Natalie Greene Taylor is a doctoral student at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies. She is a Graduate Research Associate at the Information Policy & Access Center in Maryland’s iSchool, where she works on projects relating to e-government, digital literacy and inclusion, school libraries, and children's health literacy. She received her Masters of Library Science at the University of Maryland-College Park, specializing in e-government and school library media.

Elizabeth Larson, University of Maryland, College Park

Elizabeth Larson received her Masters of Library Science at the University of Maryland-College Park, specializing in e-government. Formerly, she worked as a Graduate Research Associate at the Information & Policy Access Center in Maryland’s iSchool. Currently, she works for the University of Maryland Libraries.

Ruth Lincoln, University of Maryland, College Park

Ruth Lincoln is a former graduate research associate at the Information Policy & Access Center and a 2012 graduate of the University of Maryland’s iSchool, from which she received her Masters in Library Science with a concentration in e-government. At iPAC, she contributed to the E-Government Partnerships project and the Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study. She now serves as an Online Content Specialist at the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s (NCBI) Bookshelf, a free searchable collection of online biomedical books and documents.

Jonathan Lazar, Towson University & Shutzer Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

Jonathan Lazar is a Professor of Computer and Information Sciences, director of the undergraduate program in Information Systems, and founder and director of the Universal Usability Laboratory, all at Towson University. He is currently serving as the Shutzer Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, where he is researching the relationship between web-based interfaces that are inaccessible to people with disabilities, and how those inaccessible interfaces lead to forms of discrimination that are illegal under US law. Lazar has published more than 120 refereed articles in journals, books, and conference proceedings. He has also authored three books and edited three books, including Research Methods in Human-Computer Interaction (Wiley, 2010), Universal Usability: Designing Computer Interfaces for Diverse User Populations (Wiley, 2007), and Web Usability: A User-Centered Design Approach (Addison Wesley, 2006). He received a 2011 University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for public service, a 2010 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind, and a 2009 Innovator of the Year award from the Maryland Daily Record. Dr. Lazar has been granted a patent for his work on developing accessible web-based security features for people with disabilities. He currently serves as chair of public policy for ACM SIGCHI (the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction), and editor of the "Interacting with Public Policy" forum of ACM Interactions Magazine.

Brian Wentz, Shippensburg University

Brian Wentz, DSc, is an Associate Professor of Management Information Systems at Shippensburg University. His research interests include human-computer interaction, user-centered design, policy implications of accessibility and usability, and expanding employment for individuals with disabilities.

Published
2014-10-27
How to Cite
Jaeger, P. T., Gorham, U., Bertot, J. C., Taylor, N. G., Larson, E., Lincoln, R., Lazar, J., & Wentz, B. (2014). Connecting government, libraries and communities: Information behavior theory and information intermediaries in the design of LibEGov.org. First Monday, 19(11). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v19i11.4900