Civic Switchboard Project Awarded IMLS Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Grant

The Pittsburgh-based Civic Switchboard team and partners from around the country are pleased to announce the receipt of a Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). This IMLS funding program supports projects that train library and archival professionals in areas that address the information needs of their communities.

The University of Pittsburgh-based team includes:

  • Nora Mattern (PI), School of Computing and Information
  • Aaron Brenner, University Library System
  • Chelsea Gunn, School of Computing and Information
  • Liz Monk, University Center for Social and Urban Research
  • Marcia Rapchak, School of Computing and Information

Through our Civic Data Literacy for Libraries: A Civic Switchboard Institute project, we will host six regional and one online institutes for library workers interested in serving as intermediaries between community members and civic data and developing civic data roles for their libraries.

This project builds on previous work by the Civic Switchboard project, including:

  • The creation of an online guide and toolkit for libraries interested in expanding (or beginning) their role around civic information.
  • The collection of case studies that showcase the variety of civic data work in libraries (see 2019 and 2020 case studies)
  • The development of an open civic data curriculumfor faculty to integrate into graduate programs in Library and Information Science
  • The establishment of community of practice infrastructure, such as a discussion group and community calls (which will be reinstituted with this grant).

There are several goals for the Civic Switchboard Institutes:

  1. To expand a community of practice focused on libraries and civic data and connect regional library workers;
  2. To support participants in understanding their civic data ecosystem and potential roles for their libraries;
  3. To connect participants with exemplars of library civic data intermediary work by featuring the work of host sites;
  4. To foster critical data literacies through engagement with topics in civic data that speak to power, social justice, and responsible data practices to mitigate harms;
  5. And refine our previously designed educational materials for a library audience.

We are pleased to be working with incredible regional partners who will host the 2-day Institutes in 2024:

  • Alex Chassanoff (University of North Carolina Chapel Hill) for a Chapel Hill, NC workshop
  • The Data Services at Fondren Library at Rice University for a Houston, TX workshop;
  • Matthew Sisk (The University of Notre Dame) for a South Bend, IN workshop;
  • Nancee Hunter (Portland State University) for a Portland, OR workshop;
  • Garrett Dash Nelson and Ian Spangler (Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library) for a Boston, MA workshop.
  • Pittsburgh, PA, the location of the Civic Switchboard team, will also serve as a workshop site, and we will offer one entirely online workshop.

A schedule for Institutes will be announced by November 1, 2023. Details for how to apply and deadlines for each regional workshop application will be shared in late 2023 as well. Through the grant, we will provide stipends to support participants’ travel expenses to attend the Institute.

This project will expand a community of practice around civic data in libraries through the institute and additional programming. We will reinstitute community of practice calls that will provide a space for Institute participants to reflect on their experiences at the Institute and next steps with civic data in their libraries and that will spotlight libraries engaged in civic data work.

Please sign up for the Civic Data Operators group to connect with colleagues, as well as join the mailing list for notifications.

We can also be contacted at:

We hope you will join us for the Civic Switchboard Institute and community of practice programming! You can find our IMLS project proposal on the IMLS website.