As a kid, one of my favorite stories was O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief," about a ransom plot gone awry: the kidnappers are so overwhelmed by the young "victim's" mischievous antics that they end up paying the child's parents to take him back. And readers of a certain age might associate ransom with a comedy of errors, perhaps John Goodman's character throwing a satchel of dirty laundry during a fake ransom drop gone awry in "The Great Lebowski."
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Followers of our blog know that we're big fans of the Institute for Museum and Library Science (IMLS) library survey data releases -- these are the most comprehensive sources of data about public libraries in the United States. So we were very excited this week to see that the FY2017 survey results have been released on the IMLS.gov website!
Not sure how to get started analyzing PLS data? Check out this video where we introduce the data included in the survey and associated documentation.
When a disaster strikes, information can be just as valuable as water, power, or critical supplies! Learn more about how your library can provide information and access following a disaster.
Providing Public Internet Access At The Library
One of the most critical requirements after a disaster is the restoration of communications with the outside world, and these days, that means the Internet. While first responders, whether at the local, state, or federal level, may have their own data and communications infrastructure, libraries can still provide access for responders, volunteers, and survivors. Internet access is critical after a disaster for:
- filing government disaster benefits claims
- filing insurance claims and other paperwork
- communicating with friends/family outside the disaster zone
- coordinating volunteers and support from outside the disaster zone
Because Internet access is so important during a disaster, it may be necessary to expand opportunities for leveraging the library’s connectivity.
"Peer analysis" is a tool used in finance, management, and even sports -- and you do it unconsciously all the time. We're simply finding the similar items in a large dataset by one or more dimensions, and then seeing how they compare in other dimensions. In other words, if you're the director of a small library in Ruraltown, Nebraska, you don't want to compare your library's collection numbers to those larger library systems in Omaha and Nebraska.
With the news this week that the Trump Administration is trying to destroy the Institute for Museum and Library Services - for the third year in a row - library advocates across the United States snapped into action. ALA fired up a "send an email to your representative" tool as well as an interactive table for looking up your representative's and senator's respective votes on past library funding bills. As BookRiot says, not hyperbolically: "[d]efunding the IMLS would effectively end all federal funding of public libraries."
Are you going to build a community digital project, like a new online app or map for your city or region? Make sure to check out the project toolkit from the US Census Bureau's "The Opportunity Project" for some great tips and resources! The toolkit includes helpful explanations of the chief steps of planning, building, and supporting a digital product or service - and since it's provided by the Census Bureau, there are tons of links to data sources from federal, state, and local sources.
Something big is coming in 2020 - and we're not talking about the presidential election or the Olympics... it's the decennial US census! And libraries have a critical role to play to ensure that their communities are represented in the census data, and the resulting program dollars that will flow. Thankfully, the US Census Bureau and other organizations are working together to help everyone be counted fairly.
You can create simple online maps using free tools like Google's My Maps, but for serious collections of local landmarks, or historical/cultural resources, you'll need something more powerful, such as the custom platform that we built for Chicago Ancestors. I recently came across the open source platform "Arches," popularized by a digital history project in Los Angeles, that provides powerful geodata management capabilities perfect for digital humanities projects.
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.)
Our last blog post about accessibility focused on making sure that your website was easy to access by people that use assistive technologies, such as screen readers, which read aloud what's on a computer screen to users with low or no vision. I recently attended a fantastic webinar on actual screen reader software itself by Kelsey Flynn of the White Oak Public Library District in Illinois, presented through the LITA webinar series. Kelsey covered some of the basics of accessibility software, including deep dives into the five most popular screen reader titles.
Some of my key takeaways: