Data powers advocacy: Please log onto Digital Inclusion Survey today!

The Digital Inclusion Survey is open until November 22.

The Digital Inclusion Survey is open until November 22.

I can attest to the power of library data like that provided by thousands of libraries through the Digital Inclusion Survey throughout my career. From reporters calling the Public Information Office to other researchers and library students while in the Office for Research and Statistics to now with Beltway policymakers and legislators, the time librarians make to respond to national surveys puts our community “on the map” for those who might otherwise count us out of the Digital Age.

I know (and certainly hear from) librarians who participate in surveys ranging from the Institute of Museum and Library Service (IMLS) Public Libraries Survey to the Public Library Data Service report and can get understandably fatigued by the number of surveys and questions. It’s a fair question to ask “is this worth my time” among many pressing tasks–and even “what’s in it for me?” My colleagues in other American Library Association (ALA) units and at the Information Policy & Access Center at the University of Maryland take these questions seriously.

Here’s five reasons I think public library staff should say “yes” to the Digital Inclusion Survey:

  1. ALA and the University of Maryland iPAC team have made the online platform as easy to use as possible, plus allowing folks to import last year’s data if you’ve participated before.
  2. We make it easy to leverage data for advocacy at all levels. Issue briefs, state summaries, reports and infographics provide bite-size pieces, context and visual appeal on the topics ranging from digital inclusion writ large to e-government and employment.*
  3. We don’t sit on our laurels. Have you looked at the new, interactive mapping feature that combines GIS, community demographic data and your library information on the fly? Your city and county managers thought it was pretty cool when we showed it to them.
  4. These data and the resulting reports allow you to see your library and its programs and services among libraries of similar sizes, and within a state* and national context, as well as your local community.
  5. ALA puts the data to work for you and your colleagues. We take these state summaries to senators; use the data to inform and bolster our policy recommendations, testimony and public comments; and publicize the heck out of what we’ve learned from all of you in media ranging from Fast Company to Governing magazine.

As often as you are asked to respond to a survey, we are asked to document why libraries need more funding through the federal E-rate program, to answer how many libraries offer 3D printers, and to show how libraries are helping supporting a 21st century workforce. I can’t credibly answer these questions without your help.

The Digital Inclusion Survey is open until November 22. Be the answer!

[*We can only provide state-level summaries for those states where we have enough responses. Tell your neighbor!]

About Larra Clark

As Deputy Director of the American Library Association's Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), Larra’s responsibilities include overall management of OITP’s telecommunications portfolio and day-to-day management of America’s Libraries for the 21st Century (AL21C) projects and those in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Previously, she served as the project manager in the ALA Office for Research & Statistics for three years.

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