In the June issue of Wired Magazine there was a brief piece about governmental open data initiatives. In it, writer Jesse Lichtenstein brings up the crucial point that getting lots of data out on the web and available to the masses is great and all, but the people who might be most empowered by the trends and information that could be gleaned are the those least likely to have the skills, resources or knowledge to extract what might help them fight for their cause.
And isn’t this where libraries come in? Isn’t this the type of role we should be taking on? I’m certain that there are some libraries doing this – providing Internet access to help communities get this data, then teaching them how to sort, slice, dice and come to conclusions based on what they find and discover. Libraries can be the liason and interpreters of this data – or teach the “language” of data/data analysis to library patrons.
There are some other arguments surrounding the article – but I’m trying to focus on the one aspect I see as being most significant to our profession – helping communities harness open data is a role libraries should consider more heavily when they are looking at ways they can stay relevant.
If your library is doing this, please tell me about it, I’d like to learn more!