Why should departments go through the trouble of putting their manual online?
Among other benefits, putting a department's manual online:
- Informs the community about the department;
- Demonstrates the department’s commitment to transparency and community involvement; and
- Allows the departments to showcase new or innovative policies.
Most important, putting a manual online is a way of reaching people. Publishing a manual gives groups that already are looking for the information – like journalists – a place to find it. At the same time, it makes information accessible to ordinary members of the public, who wouldn’t otherwise even think to look for policies in the first place.
Of course, some members of the public need more from a manual than others. Journalists may look to understand the full depth of policies, so they’ll want access to the nitty-gritty details. An ordinary citizen, however, probably just wants to know the general gist of a policy, or how it affects the community.
A good manual must be accessible and helpful to both groups, and putting a 500-page PDF on a website isn’t going to meet either of those needs. Thus, it is crucial for departments to follow the instructions in the How-To section on how to produce an engaging online manual.