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


Edmonton Public Library (EPL) hosted its first hackathon for International Open Data Day 2014. International Open Data Day promotes open data policies in local, regional, and national governments worldwide, in the spirit of transparency and civic innovation. The open data movement, like public libraries, values access to information and civic engagement, and it offers opportunities for public libraries to improve their efficiency, transparency, and programming. Celebrating the event provided the Library with the additional benefit of strengthening our relationship to local government. This case study provides a practical introduction to hosting an open data hackathon as a first step to engaging the open data movement. Two follow-up surveys, one immediately after the hackathon and another five months later, were used to assess the event and determine how the Library could better support the open data community in the future. The majority of hackathon participants labelled themselves beginner programmers, were not regular library users, and appreciated the opportunity to meet city employees and other hackers who shared their interests. The Library was encouraged to increase our output of open data and to host more hackathons. Results also suggested room for improvement in the areas of developing a more formal structure to the event, connecting participants with similar interests, and providing long term support for app development. By hosting a hackathon for International Open Data Day, EPL gained both the information and the relationships necessary to release meaningful datasets and put itself in an excellent position to understand and respond to the interests and needs of the open data community.


open data; hackathon; public libraries


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. …

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