Civic Switchboard is based on the idea that libraries and library workers should be key actors in civic open data ecosystems and act as core data intermediaries.
That role can take many forms: developing community data literacies, making civic data more usable, strengthening relationships between data producers, providing expertise on privacy and data management, publishing and archiving civic data, hosting events… the specifics will be different in different regions, but at the core is the goal of helping people find, use, and apply public information.
The project is designed around two strong convictions. First, that cultivating a healthy local civic data ecosystem depends upon the coordinated efforts of a variety of data intermediaries. No single entity (e.g. your library) can effectively cover all of the necessary roles alone. To that end, our project team includes representation from:
- A public library system - Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
- An academic library system - University of Pittsburgh
- A regional open data portal - Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center, hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Center for Social and Urban Research
- A national membership organization of non-library civic data intermediaries - National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, coordinated by the Urban Institute.
Cultivating and strengthening similar partnerships in other regions is a core objective of this project.
Secondly, we believe that the importance of local context and the variety of local civic data landscapes mean that no single model can be made to fit every city or region. Modelling at the national level must be done by capturing a wide variety of successful local practices. This project is deliberately designed to involve a broad and diverse cohort of regional participants whose experiences will inform its outputs.
There are a number of ways that your library or community can be involved.
In 2018, the project team hosted workshops at two conferences: The National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (May 2018) and the Digital Library Federation (October 2018). These workshops have now completed. Read recaps of the Atlanta and Las Vegas workshops.
In 2019 and 2020, the project offered stipends to partnerships between libraries and local data intermediaries for field testing the toolkit. These are now underway. Read about the projects we funded in 2019 and in 2020.
At any time, you can also be involved by reading (and providing feedback) on the Civic Switchboard Guide and Toolkit, and by participating in the community of practice discussion group Civic Data Operators.