Why Open Library Data Matters: Perspectives from Library Map of the World Contributors
04 March 2022
Open Data Day is celebrated on 5 March each year and provides an opportunity for open data advocates and practitioners to mark successes and explore key questions.
Earlier this year, IFLA made a new contribution, specific to the cause, through its Statement on Open Library Data. This underlined that the same logic that supports the broader open data movement – that openness promotes transparency, as well as stronger focus and more efficient and effective work – apply as much to the LIS field as to governments as a whole.
It is vital that governments not only ensure the collection of up-to-date and high-quality data about libraries, but that they make it publicly available.
IFLA itself provides a platform for celebrating this through the Library Map of the World (LMW). With this, we also make it possible to compare how the library field is structured, and carry out global analyses such as in our Library Stat of the Week series.
In order to mark Open Data Day this year, we talked with the lead contributors of the three countries with the highest number of data points supplied to us – i.e. those with the richest contributions to the Map.
Why was open library data so important to them in their advocacy and their planning, and why was it important to be on the Library Map of the World? We are very grateful to Diana Rudzite, Statistical Expert at the National Library of Latvia, Library Development Centre, Anna Simonsson, Head of the Development Support Unit, National Library of Sweden, and Yaroslava Soshynska, Ukrainian Library Association Executive Director for their contributions.*
Open Library Data: A Boost for Advocacy
Contributors strongly agreed on the crucial role that data and evidence can play in backing up arguments and lending them credibility that opinions alone cannot provide. Open library data can also serve to tell a story about the impact of libraries on local and regional communities
One of the most important components of library advocacy is information based on data and evidence, mostly to justify the financial needs of libraries, but from time to time we are in need to argue the importance and existence of libraries in general. In library advocacy, a personal (although very professional) opinion is not enough. (Latvia)
The ULA actively uses library data in its work with central and local governments, in particular on the new version of the Law on Libraries and Librarianship, to modernise libraries, create a flexible and optimal library system in the country and provide citizens with qualitative and accessible library services for all categories of users. (Ukraine)
There is also work to be done to ensure that politicians themselves are basing decisions on facts. In Sweeden there is success on this front as our Swedish colleagues are seeing library data being picked up and used by politicians, journalists, researchers and others.
Open Library Data: A Basis for Better Planning
Our interviewees all agreed on the importance of open library data as a foundation for ensuring more effective planning for the future, including a stronger focus on necessarily limited resources where they were most needed. In particular, this data was crucial in reforming the network of public libraries in Latvia following changes to the country’s territorial administrative structures. Of course, to do this in an inclusive, democratic way, openness is essential.
Swedish authorities in general are working hard with open data as we see it as fundamental in the development of society. It is encouraged by the government. (Sweden)
Library statistics also reveal real needs and allow us to predict future requests of our users, so with the library data we can constantly develop and exceed expectations for the library users. (Ukraine)
Nowadays, without data, it is not possible (and would not be encouraged at all) to plan or expand any serious development of library activities. It is not enough just to have data or have it available, it must be reliable, focused, easily understandable and quickly accessible. (Latvia)
Our respondents also made clear that open library data could allow for the development of library performance indicators, making it possible to evaluate the performance of libraries as a whole or their individual services, and to plan future activities accordingly.
Why Being on the Library Map of the World Matters
All of our respondents made clear that it was a source of pride for their national field to be present on the Library Map of the World and to be able to share their data with colleagues elsewhere. Active engagement on LMW is seen as a starting point for learning and exchange. More fundamentally, it is an important reminder of being part of a global professional community.
We are proud of the presence of Ukrainian libraries on LMW because we can introduce our results to colleagues from all over the world, share and gain new experiences (Ukraine).
We are pleased to share the information that is available to us so that other countries can get to know us better, obtain information and create a data-based and justified understanding of Latvian libraries. Being part of the Library Map of the World, we not only represent our country internationally but also set goals for ourselves – to improve, to grow along with the international community, world requirements and trends (Latvia).
The Library Map of the World continues to grow as a global open library data resource. Keep checking in to see the latest data and stories, and follow our Twitter feed to learn about these as they happen. You can also download the data from the website to carry out your own analyses and inform your thinking and planning.
Happy Open Data Day!
* Interviews with the Library Map of the World Contributors were conducted in the first half of February 2022.