Librarian foot soldiers enlisted to help with Obamacare enrollment

The nation’s librarians will be recruited to help people get signed up for insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Up to 17,000 U.S. libraries will be part of the effort to get information and crucial computer time to the millions of uninsured Americans who need to get coverage under the law.

Article in the Washington Times

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Alas

I don't see this ending well

Are Libraries being asked to handle more than they can?

I wouldn't have the foggiest clue as to how to tell people which insurance they need to sign up for. How much training are we going to be given on this? Because I can just tell you right now, the people who are signing up for insurance aren't going to know what insurance they will need and will expect us to figure it out for them. Sorry, but considering how confusing health insurance is, I wouldn't know where to tell them to begin. They have to price plans, figure out the best one for their circumstances, etc. How the heck am I supposed to know which health care plan would be best for someone else?

First they dump all the tax forms on us and expect us to answer tax questions, then the state Labor Departments tell people registering for unemployment that the libraries will help them with their applications, then all the companies now have online-only job applications and we spend 75% of our time helping patrons fill out complicated job applications, now we are expected to be health-care experts as well. Adding to the fact that the GED will be online-only starting next year and I think this is going to overwhelm already cash-and-staff-strapped libraries.

I know the library is adapting and we all need to evolve, especially since helping and advancing the community is a good chunk of our job, but I think we being asked to handle way much more than we can chew. I work in a very busy medium-sized library and I don't know if we are going to have enough staff to handle all these additional requests. Not to mention not having the budget to hire more full-time librarians.

Maybe if we had more staff or specialists it would be okay, but my library is not the NYPL or the Chicago Public Library or other big cities, which have vast resources and huge staff.

Yes

This shouldn't be happening.

Simple (if silly) answer

Have a set of useful websites with additional information on them (often to be found on government websites to help people) and steer people onto those sites.
Providing information and access time doesn't have to mean sitting there with them doing it.
If someone wants to find a book to see what the rash on their crotch is means I'll find them a book not get them to show me so I can go through the photos in the book with them.

I agree that we should

I agree that we should definitely have sites available, pamphlets, brochures, etc. for the patrons. Libraries need to plan ahead for this instead of waiting until October 1, 2013 to start putting their resources together. Our library is already putting materials online and in print ahead of time.

Do you actually work with patrons? I ask this in all honesty, not trying to be snarky, but we have people who come into our library who don't know the first thing about a computer. They are utterly lost at filling out job applications, some of them haven't done a resume in years, can't even do simple job searches. Not everyone is computer literate. Finding books about "rashes on their crotch" is far different from someone filling out complicated online health insurance forms which might require hours of work.

Maybe you have computer-savvy, tech-smart patrons who visit your library who aren't going to need this program or will know how to do it themselves. That is not every library.

This could be very well be a small segment of the population coming in and taking advantage of this program, but not all libraries are going to have the staff or resources/budgets available to help patrons with this.

We have no idea how big this is going to be. There might not even be lots of people at all using libraries for this, there may be tons. We will find out soon enough.

I know you're not being sarky :)

'Finding books about "rashes on their crotch" is far different from someone filling out complicated online health insurance forms which might require hours of work.'

Indeed. One is part of our job and one isn't. We can do what we can for them but we are not specialists so it's madness to think we should even try to be. It would be lovely to do this for all people but sorry there isn't enough time staff or ability to be able to do it. (To patrons) Don't like that, go petition for more funding.

Having something dumped on us, however good willed and useful it might be doesn't actually matter. There is always going to be a limit on what we can do.

As it says '. libraries will be part of the effort to get information and crucial computer time to the millions of uninsured Americans who need to get coverage under the law.'

Part of the effort. And we would provide information and crucial computer time. Doesn't say do it for them.

Computer availability for health care forms

The chances are there will not be the computer resources available in public libraries to fill out the forms required under the new health care law. Librarians can not answer questions about which coverage options a patron may need, anymore than they can answer income tax questions.
Was the ALA consulted? Not all public libraries are wallowing in computer resources.

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