Simplifying access to online government information and services: the California State Library teams up to develop a new state portal 

The California state portal, the online face of state government, has a new look and feel.  Under the leadership and direction of California’s State Information Officer, J. Clark Kelso, State and Consumer Services Agency Secretary Rosario Marin, and State Librarian Susan Hildreth, the California State Library (CSL) teamed up with several state agencies and departments to help with the redesign of the portal.  The leadership team’s vision was to recreate the state portal as a virtual “service center” that would cater to the customers’ needs, not what the government thought those needs were.

First steps: CRB Framework report and CSL team

In 2005, Kelso requested that the California Research Bureau (CRB) research and write a framework document, Policy and Management Issues Framework – Statewide Portal Project (, which was published in early 2005.  A team of people from the CSL and a staff member on loan from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, researched issues, trends and standards in areas such as portal governance, design, development, funding, and security.  The CSL team interviewed several state agencies to identify the “good” and the “bad” of the then current state portal.  They spent hours researching what issues others in state and federal government faced in redesigning their portals, including an excellent presentation by the Canadian team that developed New Brunswick’s well-received portal.  The CRB framework report acted as a guide for the next steps in the portal project.

Next steps: CSL team forms IOUCA, larger working group of other state department reps 

The CSL team’s next assignment was to establish and lead a group that would research and recommend standards and best practices in portal design.  The CSL team formed Information Organization, Usability, Currency, and Accessibility (IOUCA), a working group made up of members from several state departments including Department of Rehabilitation, Department of Health Services, Board of Equalization, Franchise Tax Board, Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Food and Agriculture, Employment Development Department, and many others.  The IOUCA group’s task was to write recommendations for standards that would help create a state portal through which customers would easily and quickly find what they needed or wanted.  The three standards were:

IOUCA presented their recommendations to the Portal Review Board and Steering Committee.  The Steering Committee adopted the standards in July 2006.  These standards together with consultation from IOUCA members helped the newly formed California eServices Office and Portal Redesign Team develop the new customer-centered state portal. 

Going Forward: Executive Steering Committee sponsors state portal

In mid-2006, Kelso formed a Steering Committee to be the executive sponsor of the state portal.  The Steering Committee includes Kelso, Secretary of State and Consumer Services Marin, and State Librarian Hildreth.  In addition to sponsoring the state portal, the Steering Committee oversees the development of “service centers” which bring together information from several agencies and departments so that customers need only look in one place for the information.  Several service centers, such as the California Tax Service Center, have already been created and many more are in development.   

The Steering Committee is taking an active role in ensuring that the state portal will continue to provide an entry into state government that all can trust and that is responsive and courteous to customers’ needs. 

For more information about the California State Library’s role in the State Portal redesign project, please contact Kristine Ogilvie in California State Library Government Publications at (916) 651-6800 or email at




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