Civic Switchboard: Connecting Library and Community Information Networks

Funder: Institute for Museum and Library Services
Contact: Elizabeth Monk
Date: September 2017 - November 2019

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The Civic Switchboard project will develop partnerships between libraries and local data intermediaries to better serve data users, further democratize data, and support equitable access to information.  The Project team includes the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center, The University Library System at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and the Urban Institute's National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership.

For more information, visit the project website and sign up to receive updates on the project.


The widespread availability of open data, computing power, and accessible tools for analysis is leading to growth in the use of data for discovery and argument in civic and scholarly contexts. Libraries have been strong advocates for openness in scholarly communication and cultural heritage. Parallel to these developments, local and regional levels of government have launched open data portals to publish civic data, with goals of improved efficiency, transparency, and public participation. Despite these advances, the act of publishing data alone does not always result in community change. Data intermediaries are entities that help stakeholders apply data to achieve impact by building relationships among publishers, users, and other members of the ecosystem; improving data, statistical, and technological literacy; enhancing data quality; providing feedback mechanisms to publishers; and building tools that enable broader data use. Librarians’ expertise adds value to a wide range of issues that affect both data publishers and users and should be key actors in the continuing development of civic open data portals.


Guidance based on real-world pilots is needed to promote successful collaboration and coordination between public libraries, academic libraries, related data intermediaries, civic open data portals, and their associated data producers and users. This is the gap this project will address, by

  • working with a variety of regional civic data partnerships to develop them as participants in their local civic data ecosystems, and
  • capturing and cross-testing their experiences in a guide and toolkit that can be used by other libraries nationwide.


In Year 1, to broaden networks and expand resources, the project team will host workshops at two conferences: The National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (Spring 2018) and the Digital Library Federation (Fall 2018). In Year 2, the project will seed partnerships between libraries and local data intermediaries for field testing the toolkit.

See all NNIP items related to the issues:
Open Data

Participating Partners:

University Center for Social and Urban Research