A Journalist's Guide to Finding the Data You Need — Part One

A journalist conducting research at a library

Editor's Note: This post originally appeared in Source, an OpenNews project designed to amplify the impact of journalism by connecting a network of developers, designers, journalists, and editors to collaborate on open technologies. It was originally written for journalists, but we thought the piece so unique and useful to librarians and library workers that we're reposting it on TechSoup for Libraries in a two-part series. Find the original here.

At Factful, where we're building technology for journalists and civil society researchers, we're researching ways to make contemporary state-of-the-art data processing and storage tools more accessible to investigative reporters. One question driving our research was whether or not it made sense to create a large-scale data commons, a place where publicly useful sets of information could be stored, curated, and compared for the common good. Ultimately, we decided that for us the answer is no, at least for now. There are plenty of incomplete or out-of-date data commons projects already, and building and maintaining a truly comprehensive project is a massive undertaking.

Along the way, we did compile a pretty comprehensive roundup of data repositories and commons projects that could be valuable tools for reporters, investigators, or anyone looking to increase accountability through publicly available information.

Save the IMLS, an Integral Supporter of Libraries

#SaveIMLS - Thanks to The Institute of Museum and Library Services data, TechSoup has made a larger impact. Served 9,521 libraries; Provided 178,782,415 dollars (FMV) in tech to libraries; Saved libraries 169,542,344 dollars

At TechSoup, our work is never solitary. We benefit from the resources, brainpower, and strength of organizations and individuals to help us support NGOs and public libraries worldwide. Our relationships boost our impact far beyond what we might have achieved alone.


Make it Count: Social Media Analytics for Public Libraries

Of the tasks that can make you go cross-eyed during your off-desk hours, one might be measuring social media analytics. Often, you have more questions than answers. What should we measure, and which measurements matter the most? What do the experts say? How does that apply to my library, and what can I show my administration or board? How do we even know if our numbers are good ones?

We invited Laura Solomon, author of The Librarian's Nitty-Gritty Guide to Social Media and Library Services Manager at the Ohio Public Library Information Network, to our August webinar. Here's what she said matters most when it comes to social media analytics in public libraries.

Visualize Better Looking Data for Your Library

Have you ever written an annual report, PowerPoint slide, or article and thought, "This could really use some sort of visual." But then when you started plotting out what you wanted to show and how you were going to show it, you hit a roadblock and thought, "Oh my gosh, I am not a graphic designer." Well, think again, because even the most design-impaired people can make a pretty snazzy infographic or chart with the right tools and some basic design principles.

As a not-so-design-savvy person myself, I recently attended WebJunction's excellent webinar, Data Visualization for the Rest of Us: A Beginner's Guide. The webinar was presented by Linda Hofschire, a research analyst at the Library Research Service at the Colorado State Library. Hofschire's sensible tips and tool recommendations left me raring to start infographic-ing (is that a word?) everything. I recommend watching the full webinar, but here are some of the highlights.

Sparking Interest in Community Assessment

Trying to convince others that conducting a community assessment is a good idea? Sometimes just giving them a "taste" of the process can whet their appetite for more.

National Research and the Local Experience

National level research can be an interesting way to consider local experience. It can help raise your awareness as you consider the questions you want and need to ask when looking outside of the library at your community. For example, a couple of weeks ago, another interesting study was released by Pew Research called Younger Americans’ Library Habits and Expectations by Kathryn Zickuhr, Lee Rainie and Kristen Purcell. It describes the preferences of younger Americans (ages 16-29) when it comes to reading, libraries, and technology. How can a local library learn from and use this national level data?

TechSoup Global: Springing into Action

TechSoup Global has had a busy year so far with new ventures, exciting contests, and global recognition. Here's a peek into what we've been up to:

Finding data about your community

Are you conducting a Community Assessment for planning? This article includes resources for finding existing information for your community. There is a wealth of data available about your community courtesy of federal websites, state publications and databases, and local contacts. 

Early Impressions from Edge Initiative Beta Test Data Analysis

Although we’re still in the early stages of digesting the rich data provided to us by the 160 libraries that took the time to participate in the Edge Initiative beta test, the University of Washington team has gained some initial impressions and insights from the responses.