Academic journal article Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research

Open Data Day Hackathon 2014 at Edmonton Public Library

Academic journal article Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research

Open Data Day Hackathon 2014 at Edmonton Public Library

Article excerpt


The open data movement has a number of positive implications for public libraries. Were a library to collect and analyze its internal data and integrate it with publicly available data, it could improve the efficiency of workflows and provide evidence-based support for program development. Sharing library data such as in-branch technology usage, anonymized circulation statistics, and catalogue metadata improves the organization's transparency and can provide citizens with insight into the value of the library. Open data can also form the focal point of engaging library programming. Offering programming around open data is one way for public libraries to be responsive to the new kinds of literacies and information users emerging in the 21st century. Edmonton Public Library (EPL) took advantage of the annual International Open Data Day as an opportunity to embrace the open data movement and start exploring its potential by hosting an Open Data Day Hackathon.

Inspired by the open data leadership of the City of Edmonton (CoE), becoming involved in the open data community and supporting data literacy are initiatives in EPL's 2014-2016 Business Plan. The topic of open data has also become increasingly prevalent in professional discourse. For example: a study of 2012 LIS graduates proclaimed the emergence of the "Databrarian" (Maatta); at the start of 2014, open data and big data were listed as top tech trends at the ALA Midwinter Meeting (SinhaRoy); and Greenwalt encouraged public libraries to engage with the trend of open data in a recent article in Public Libraries Online. At EPL, new efforts are guided by our over-arching Community-Led Service Philosophy, which is a framework for building relationships with our community members and developing programs and services based on the needs they express (Edmonton Public Library). Hosting a hackathon was an effort to achieve the organizational goals of participating in the open data community, building relationships within it, supporting data literacy, and understanding the community's needs.

What is open data?, a project of the international, non-profit open data advocate Open Knowledge Foundation, explains that "a piece of data or content is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it-subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike." Broadly speaking, this describes the accessibility of any information, and the Open Knowledge Foundation encourages the adoption of open licenses by government, businesses, and non-profits. The open data movement has done the most advocacy and made the most impact thus far in the realm of government data. International Open Data Day is a prime example of the movement's focus on government data: the event website declares that the day's purpose is to "show support for and encourage the adoption [of] open data policies by the world's local, regional, and national governments."

International Open Data Day started in 2010 through a partnership between Canadian and Brazilian open data advocates. Since then, the annual event has grown exponentially, with independently organized events on almost every continent. In 2014 the Open Data Day Wiki listed 194 events held around the world in 47 different countries, including 9 events in Canada ("2014/City Events"). The scope and activities of each event depend on the context. Events in 2014 included public talks and various adaptations of the basic hackathon premise, which responded to local issues and accommodated various skill levels.

A hackathon is a collaborative computer programming event. They do not necessarily involve open government data, as Shujah's case study of the Steacie Library Dungeon Hackfest demonstrates. They do tend to follow the structure Shujah lays out: "The first half of the event is mainly about forming groups, discussing hack ideas, and getting started on coding. The second half is spent continuing with coding, moving the project forward, and solving issues collectively to create a final product" (2). …

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