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Region 5 Blog February 2nd, 2023
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Data Literacy: “What It Is and Why You Should Care”

Posted by on September 26th, 2017 Posted in: Data Science

Open data… big data… data management… These terms swirl around us, and often we just let them flow past. But, to understand and navigate the rapidly changing landscape that is data, we need certain skills, and these are characterized as “data literacy”. One definition of data literacy, from DataPopAlliance.org, is “the desire and ability to constructively engage in society through and about data” (click here if you want to know the thinking behind this and here if you want to see a quick video). But I like this one, from the wonderful Data Journalism Handbook, better:

“Just as literacy refers to “the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently and think critically about printed material”, data-literacy is the ability to consume for knowledge, produce coherently and think critically about data. Data literacy includes statistical literacy but also understanding how to work with large data sets, how they were produced, how to connect various data sets and how to interpret them.”

The graphic here (and at the bottom of this post) is a good representation of how the skill sets needed for data literacy intersect. I think some of us worry that we don’t have the necessary statistical literacy in particular to really feel data-literate, but if you are someone who thrives on orderly arrangements of information—perhaps a library classification system?? –you are fine! Orderliness goes far, as does a critical eye towards credibility, currency, reliability, and all those other good criteria we use to assess information every day. Those are essentially the messages of this piece, “Become Data Literate in Three Steps”.

Which brings me to, why should we care? To answer that question, I commend to you the below quote from a wonderful article which appeared recently in Public Library Quarterly, “Open Data: What It Is and Why You Should Care” (hence the quotation marks in this post’s title!). It’s aimed at librarians, but it has a message for all of us:

“As librarians, we know that data is distilled into information; information is distilled into knowledge; and knowledge drives better decision-making. When librarians help patrons, students, business owners, community members, and public servants harness information, we are helping them make better decisions in their communities, business, and lives…And most importantly, in a time with increasing threats to information and media literacy, where public data is being removed from the public sphere, it is more important than ever to ensure that government-funded and government-derived data remains data of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Convinced it’s worth learning more about data literacy? For fun, check out the HipHopLibGuide’s Data Literacy page. Because, speaking data-wise, who DOES have the largest Hip Hop vocabulary?

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Developed resources reported in this program are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.

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