ACRL Legislative Initiative Seeks Input on Use of Government Data

Illinois Association of College & Research Libraries Forum (IACRL)

May 6, 2017

(via Gwen Gregory, IACRL Past President)

Earlier this week, ACRL Executive Director Mary Ellen and I (Dr. Kara Malenfant, ACRL Senior Strategist for Special Initiatives) participated in ALA’s National Library Legislative Day in DC. In addition to visits to our state representatives, an ALA Washington Office colleague set up a few meetings with staffers of committees where there is legislation that is of particular interest to academic librarians, largely on open data. We were accompanied by ACRL president Irene Herold and vice president Cheryl Middleton. Some good opportunities for continued engagement arose, and I need your help.

We talked to staff from Sen. Peters of MI and Sen. Gardner of CO about Preserving Data in Government Act. (It just dropped Fri as S. 960 and would require federal agencies to preserve public access to existing open datasets and prevent the removal of existing datasets without sufficient public notice; go here for more information.) We also talked to staff of House Cmte on Oversight and Gov’t reform about the OPEN act. (S. 760/H.R. 1770 would require federal agencies to take the next step in publishing their data sets in a truly accessible manner in open formats and as machine-readable data. ALA and ACRL joined 80 groups in a letter to support this legislation, go here.

Both sets of staffers told us they know in broad brush strokes of the benefits of more access to govt data but they asked if we could wrangle stories. They want specific and concrete examples of how federal govt data has been used and what has happened as a result. I’d love to hear from you any short story (5-7 sentences) by COB Tuesday, May 9, that includes:

  • Who used the data? Where did this take place?
  • What data was used (data set and govt agency that generated)?
  • How was it used? For what purpose?
  • What happened as a result of the project?
  • URL for more information.

You can see a few brief examples in the press release from Sen. Peters’ website, and they’d like more. They are particularly interested in stories where use of federal govt data has advanced business growth (so perhaps check with an innovation center or business incubator on campus?) But really anything that is understandable to a lay person and shows how having this data improves lives is good. Also, these do not need to be your own personal stories. They could be things faculty are doing on campus, from another institution entirely, based on a conference presentation you heard, or newsletter article you read.

Also, in case you are wondering, we are coordinating with ARL and SPARC colleagues on this as they have been active in advocating for this legislation for some time. The Congressional staffers also told us that they need to get a bit deeper into understanding the tech aspects of why govt data needs to be standardized and how that can be accomplished (issues around metadata, thesaurus definitions, in relation to the OPEN Government Data act as it would write meaningful open data definitions into US law to enable smarter legislation in the future.) So we may be seeking out people who would be willing to serve as expert resources and have a conversation with these Congressional staffers. If that piques you interest, let me know. We still need to decide how to approach this request, again with our colleagues at ARL and SPARC. But we feel confident there are people in the library community who would be very well suited to take this on.

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