by John Carlo Bertot, Paul T. Jaeger, Lesley A. Langa and Charles R. McClure
First Monday – 4 September 2007

 This article presents findings from the 2006 Public Libraries and the Internet study and other research that demonstrate the impact of public Internet access in public libraries on the communities and individuals that the libraries serve. This article focuses on the importance of public library Internet access in times of emergencies and for a range of electronic government (e–government) services at the individual and community–wide levels. Public access computing and Internet access in public libraries function as a first choice, first refuge, and last resort in a range of emergency and e–government circumstances, allowing individuals to engage successfully in essential e–government services such as registering for Medicare or other benefits and filing tax information. With this key centrality as agents of government services, public libraries increasingly play significant roles in times of emergencies, like the aftermath of a hurricane, in which communities rely on the public library Internet access to request aid, try to find missing family and friends, file Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and insurance claims, and begin rebuilding their lives. This article also discusses the need to revise government policy related to the role of public libraries in their support of e–government as public libraries increasingly serve as agents of e–government.

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