Civic Switchboard: Connecting Library and Community Information Networks

Funder: Institute for Museum and Library Services
Contact: Elizabeth Monk
Date: September 2017 - April 2021

Photo of Public Library

The Civic Switchboard project develops 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. A draft guide and toolkit based on real-world pilots promotes successful collaboration and coordination between public libraries, academic libraries, related data intermediaries, civic open data portals, and their associated data producers and users. 

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

In 2018, to broaden networks and expand resources, the project team hosted workshops at two conferences: The National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership  and the Digital Library Federation. In 2019, the project awarded "field projects" to 9 partnerships between libraries and local data intermediaries and is drafting a guide for libraries based on the project's experiences.  The project received additional funding to extend the project until Spring 2021 with additional workshops and field projects; applications will be announced in January 2020.

The project team also launched a Civic Data Operators Google Group for those interested in ongoing discussion.


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.

See all NNIP items related to the issues:
Open Data

Participating Partners:

University Center for Social and Urban Research
Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance
Kinder Institute for Urban Research
UNC Charlotte Urban Institute
Shift Research Lab
Urban Strategies Council
(Inactive) Atlanta Regional Commission
Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development