Five leading library associations have signed on to support a national data alliance for public libraries that will enhance opportunities for strategic action around data to reflect the role and impact of public libraries at the local, regional, state and national levels.
The American Library Association and the Public Library Association, both based in Chicago; the Association for Rural and Small Libraries of Whitehall, Mich.; the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies of Lexington, KY.; and the Urban Libraries Council of Washington, D.C., will work together to create the Public Library Data Alliance. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) will maintain a liaison role with the Alliance, and the National Information Standards Organization will serve as the Alliance’s Secretariat for its first year. In addition to representatives from the associations, the Alliance’s membership will include practitioners from local and state libraries and other stakeholders. An open call for participation will be issued later in February.
The Alliance is a key component of the larger Measures that Matter initiative which began in 2016. Measures that Matter coordinated national conversations around library data collection and use and its alignment with community needs. “U.S. public libraries have been collecting data for years,” explained Timothy Cherubini, Executive Director for the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, which has led the project through a cooperative agreement with IMLS. “Measures that Matter was established to take a close look at current data practices and where and how they work well, and not so well, to tell the story of the 21st century public library.”
The five associations forming the core of the Alliance represent a diverse range of expertise in library services, from large to small and urban to rural. Their reach extends into every public library in the U.S. Each organization brings an understanding of the capabilities and challenges of member libraries that is essential to collecting and sharing library data. The Alliance’s membership diversity establishes its credibility for discussing the impact of public libraries in communities of all sizes and characteristics. Moreover, the Alliance will be well positioned to propose comprehensive strategies for sharing library best-practices and large-scale efforts to improve library services through robust and intentional data collection.
“The Public Library Data Alliance will complement existing efforts from various associations, Cherubini added. “The Alliance was conceived not to duplicate or replace existing bodies such as IMLS’s Library Statistics Working Group and the Public Library Association’s Measurement, Evaluation, and Assessment Committee. Instead, its goals are to keep the conversations moving, provide thought leadership, propose strategic actions, and create a recognized communications infrastructure not just for librarians, but for civic leaders, policymakers and others who hold interest in public library data.”
Recruitment for at-large members of the Alliance will be announced later this month. The Alliance will be looking for similar diversity in its full membership and is poised to start its work in the second quarter of 2020.
Measures that Matter is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services RE-00-16-0181-16.