Civic Technology 101 for Libraries

What do we mean by "civic technology?"

Have you ever paid a parking ticket on your city's website?  Applied for a business permit online?  Perhaps you've used a mobile app to find out when the next bus or train is arriving at your stop?  Has your library added a mobile application tied to your ILS so that patrons can browse new arrivals and be alerted to overdue materials?

These are all examples of civic technology -- the use of technology to improve how citizens, businesses, and other groups engage and conduct business with their government. 

Civic Technology for Libraries

In towns and cities of all sizes, civic technology is bringing community members together with their government institutions to improve the lives of all residents - and libraries are a natural hub for community-focused technology efforts. We provide consulting, training, event facilitation, and even customized open source applications to help your library become a digital community hub. 

Data.gov, IMLS, and Other Library Services Fall Victim to Federal Shutdown

If you haven't visited the Data.gov website before, you'll need to wait until the federal government re-opens to check out the thousands of free public government dataset that used to be available to explore and download.  And if your library or community uses that data for an application or project - you already know that you're out of luck!  (In the meantime, you can still read our 2017 Public Library Quarterly article about open data in the library.)

Reaching Your Entire Community Online: Code for America's Digital Outreach Playbook

As someone who has worked on community technology projects for nearly twenty years, it was always conventional wisdom that we had to reach people offline to bring them online.  In other words, we couldn't solely do outreach via the Internet when we were targeting people that were, often by definition, completely offline.  As librarians in an increasingly digital world approaching 2020, it can be frustrating to see low uptake of digital services or low participation rates in online programs, like summer reading. When studies show that Americans of all ages and economic groups go online in increasing numbers, why is the online use rate of our digital services not skyrocketing?

Who's Out There? The Power of Spatial Data

Library communities today are not just melting pots, they are roiling stews of people moving in and moving out.  Sometimes it seems like our communities are changing almost as fast as technology! So how do we get a handle on serving that dynamic community? How can we identify the services they need if we don’t really know who they are?

The good news is that there is data and expertise out there to help a library understand more about the people living in the shifting neighborhoods that make up their service area. Using data in the library system combined with census data, and other spatial data, a library can learn who is and who is not using the library. They can identify areas of growth and plan for a new library and they can learn who lives in that growing area to ensure the collection and services reflect their needs. https://digitalcommons.du.edu/do/search/?q=author_lname%3A%22Ayre%22%20author_fname%3A%22Lori%22&start=0&context=7293930&facet=

Building a Chatbot for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Ever been to a "hackathon" -- a gathering of technologists committed to working on a short-term project, usually a couple of days?  Imagine two dozen programmers, designers, and specialists locked in a room for 2 days with laptops, snacks, and caffeine, all focused on prototyping an innovative app for a good cause.  Learning, sharing, and pure geekery ensue!

Location, Location, Location - Putting Your Library On the Map

Over the past several years, we’ve witnessed a virtual explosion of geospatial software, services, and tools—that is, software and tools that enable us to easily map people, places, things, and data.  Libraries are uniquely poised to take advantage of these new tools to improve operations and decision-making and to engage their patron communities.  These software tools are frequently referred to as geographic information systems, or “GIS.”

GIS can be (incredibly) oversimplified to the concept of “digital maps.”  Humans have been using maps for thousands of years—we’re “location-aware,” to borrow a phrase from the software industry.  Maps are a way to visualize data, much like pie charts or bar graphs—but in the case of maps, we’re visualizing the physical world around us.  And even as libraries deliver more services virtually, they remain physical centers of the neighborhoods and cities they serve. And spatial data can help us learn more about the neighborhoods and cities where our libraries are anchored.