What open data support should public libraries provide?

With the increase in open data forums at the municipal level, people are getting involved in the open data movement from a variety of backgrounds. Developers, government administrators, educators, journalists and citizens interested in transparency are all coming together to speak about manipulating data at a grass-roots level.

So, when this movement becomes more widespread, I can see people coming into the public library for assistance of a) how to locate municipal data sets and b) how to compare with provincial, federal and international open data and c) how to input all this in easy-to-use software. Business, local associations and non-profits, and activists will be interested in learning how to effectively mine this data. Jacqueline van Dyk, Director of Libraries and Literacy for the British Columbia Ministry of Education stated last year: “Open information and open data hold obvious alignment for librarians and other information management professionals, such as records managers and archivists. Libraries are philosophically aligned with basic principles of open access, free access to publicly paid-for information, and connecting people with the information they need to live as an informed citizenry.”

This is already  happening at the academic level with the institution of various Data Research Centers in university libraries (limited to the university community, of course. See University of Guelph for a great example). I am curious in regards to what is going on in public libraries right now to prepare for patron demand.

There are a few really interesting examples. Edmonton PL has a webpage that lists key local open data sites as well as upcoming hackathons and a twitter feed. The Province of BC held a conference last year to help train public librarians in this developing area.

And then there are the libraries that are leading by example and putting their own data online for analysis. Early days still, but there are some examples. Vancouver PL  has some circulation statistics uploaded so far, going back to 2003.  Location of branches with GPS coordinates (last updated in 2009) are also on the City of Vancouver open catalogue. and the City of Windsor open catalogue (this location data seems to be the easiest point of entry for libraries).  Edmonton also lists some of its circulation stats on their overall open data site. Even .xml files for RSS feeds can be considered open data, and the Ottawa PL has made them available.

Other libraries and/or governments worldwide can be models for Canadian adoption:

So we are in the early adopter stage with this idea. But the future can be really exciting! What are your thoughts?

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