When the federal government wants to reach out to a community, they have numerous options. They can make a public address via television (or radio, I guess), but the nation has a short attention span for this sort of thing; good for when the government has a vital need to get some information out there, but not too much information. They can put stuff online, but then people need to be interested enough in that information to access it, and not everyone has ready access to online; useful when there’s a lot of information, but the need for it isn’t urgent.
Most regions have some sort of federal building or offices where the government can put literature and informed personal, but most people don’t end up visiting federal buildings very often. If the feds want to make information available to people, they need to use a community center that people access on a regular basis. Ideally one with more of a friendly face, and already staffed with informed personal. In short, they need a library.
The most obvious example of this is tax forms and information. Traditionally, box after box of forms and instruction booklets being sent out to public libraries each January, to be put in bins and set on tables for the public to access. Libraries weren’t the only place to get these forms; a lot of people got them in the mail and there were other distribution centers (such as the post office), but libraries were still an important cog in the machine to get tax money into the hands of the IRS (and state and city governments, for that matter).
Now-a-days, all these forms can be gotten online, and some of them can only be found online. This actually makes libraries an even more vital part of the process; people on the wrong side of the digital divide still need access to these forms (and most post offices don’t provide internet access).
Death (or lack thereof)
Lately, the more newsworthy example of this sort of thing is information pertaining to the Affordable Care Act, affectionately (or not so affectionately) known as Obamacare. The ACA is over 900 pages long, so a lot of people haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. There’s a lot of information floating around out there, but there’s a lot of misinformation as well, and the offical channels are still suffering from some technical difficulties.
Luckily, the nation’s various libraries are there to fill in the gaps and provide information about the ACA. Furthermore, people are expected to sign up through the webportal, which the digitally disadvantaged are expected to access through organizations like public libraries.
The American Library Association put together a nice overview and list of resources: http://www.ala.org/tools/affordable-care-act