Civic Switchboard: Connecting Library and Community Information Networks
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.
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.