With the economic troubles that are country is currently dealing with, many people are showing up at the library for government services. Non-profit organizations are sending these customers over to the library and directing them to ask the librarian if they have any questions. Many of these e-government services for Florida residents are provided through Access Florida. You can apply on-line for Food Stamps, Cash Assistance, and Medicaid through the website. The problem is some of the customers do not have any computer skills. Many librarians are not trained to help customers with the detailed questions that can come up on these sites.
Hillsborough County also offers some government services that are not provided online. The WIC program provides women who are pregnant or who have children under age 5 with nutritional counseling and grocery store checks for food. The county even has a Rental Deposit / Eviction Protection Program through the Affordable Housing Department. The program assists individuals and families who are homeless or in danger of being evicted from their current, occupied rental unit by providing up to $3,000 for such items as first month’s rent, security deposit, and utility connection / start-ups on a lease of at least one year.
This is just a sample of some of the government services offered though federal, state, and county organizations. The question is how far should a librarian help customers in registering for these services. Librarians should give the customer the website links and information about the services. However, should they walk through with the customer all of the different steps required on these sites? How do librarians handle the increase in customers requiring this service when they have staff shortages themselves?