Data literacy and data-driven decision making

How are organisations using data and metrics to model information? Gary Horrocks reports from the UKeiG Members Day.

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Data re-use in public libraries

Aude Charillon, of Newcastle City Libraries spoke about releasing and re-using public library data to engage and empower library visitors. She is a champion of open, shared content and data literacy; the need to educate people about their rights to utilise and customise creative works – images, sound, films and data - that are free of copyright. In April 2016 she wrote: “It’s all very well using creative works made by others, but what about the content the library service holds and the information we, as an organisation, collect? We felt we were only the custodians of that information and that it was our turn to make our information more available; we wanted to give it back to our residents and visitors and empower them about their rights to use and re-use our data.” 

Data about computer usage, membership, loans and enquiries was placed in the public domain under an Open Government Licence and visitors to the library were invited to download it. A workshop encouraged people to work with the data and there were several promising data visualisation outcomes. “We had some very interesting results. One participant looked at PC usage over the years and created graphs showing its evolution. Another plotted our members on a map of the UK and created a library usage data dashboard.” Charillon emphasised the importance of data being released in a standard, easily re-usable and consistent way, alongside the need for a resilient open source format like “comma-separated values” (CSV.) 

Data in the construction industry

Keith Wilson, Construction Information Consultant spoke about Building Information Modelling (BIM), a well-established integrated project information model and common data environment in that sector. He described BIM as the “UK construction industry’s information engine room” and standardised data and structured information as the building sector’s bedrock.  BIM embraces the whole lifecycle of building projects  (from first thoughts and site identification to demolition) providing the means by which everyone can understand a building through the use of a digital model. 

The UK is a world leader, unlocking new, more efficient collaborative ways of working and sharing resources. In a diverse industry with tens of thousands of people, collaboration, effective communication and national standards are fundamentally important to the success of any construction project. BIM “brings together information about every component of the building for anyone to use for any purpose. Each model is a shared resource that accumulates and manages knowledge about the building through its life.”

Keith listed key elements of the BIM information handling tool kit including:

  • Information handling rules
  • A data exchange scheme for building
  • A library of product objects – parametric (levels of detail) and structured, standardised data (levels of information)
  • Specification
  • Classification
  • A digital plan of work
  • Standards
  • Purpose made contracts
  • A plain language dictionary

Conclusion

Data literacy and data driven decision making are increasingly important to the library and information community. We need the skills to help us manage our own services, to understand how we can best impact our communities and to prove our value.  And we can also lead the way in our own organisations and communities, bringing our understanding of how information and data work to provide the support and guidance our users need to thrive in a digital world. 

The profession – and the individuals within in – need to identify where there are skills gaps and deficiencies and work hard to fill them.  We need to reach out and collaborate with non-library and information colleagues in professional services, research support, business, statistics and IT departments, for example.   There are great opportunities out there, but we need to be ready to grab them.


Gary Horrocks is the editor of eLucidate, the official journal of the UKeiG Special Interest Group of CILIP.  This is an edited version of an article originally published in eLucidate.  For further information about the day, or about UKeiG Gary can be contacted via LinkedIn or at admin@ukeig.org.uk. 

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