Since librarians are in the business of helping people find the information they need, they were the perfect students for the Civic Data Ambassadors project. However, many librarians did not have a sufficient understanding of what civic data exists and how to use this data to answer a variety of questions that directly impacts Boston communities and everyday end users.
The Engagement Lab at Emerson College created an interactive, online tutorial course to build capacity of librarians (and other interested parties) to work with open data. The Civic Data Ambassador program was a six-week online course that taught the basics of data literacy for a variety of use cases. Thirty librarians, from Boston and beyond, accessed material and completed activities online for approximately two hours a week. After the six week course, librarians understood what civic data consists of, what data is on the city's open data portal, and how to connect that data to real-world use cases and problems.
Now, as Civic Data Ambassadors, these librarians are able to understand what civic data is and how to use it to answer questions that directly impact Boston communities. They also now have the technical skills to search for, find and filter open data and conduct basic spreadsheet analysis and quantitative text analysis. Open data without data training is still essentially closed data. Getting the opportunity to learn how to navigate datasets is an important skill in promoting access.