Pandemic Pivot: Data Engagement — from Berkeley, not Gothenburg

So many of us have a dream that didn’t take place this year.  Mine was to go to the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg, Sweden.  I’m a big Volvo fan: here’s my 1992 wagon, who the mechanic said wouldn’t make it from Seattle to Berkeley when I moved here.  He was wrong, she flew into Berkeley in style.  She’s a champ.

Red Volvo wagon
My Volvo, Chili, made it to Berkeley

But, I digress! The reason I was due to be in Gothenburg at all was to give a talk at the 2020 IASSIST (International Association for Social Science Information Service and Technology) conference there in May, but of course like so much else the conference was canceled.  I was pretty disappointed, especially since this was my chance to take a presentation I’d given for public librarians in 2017 and re-envision and reinvigorate it for academic librarians in 2020.

I got very lucky though…in mid-March, just as conference cancellation news came through, and the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place was declared, a colleague encouraged me to submit something for consideration to the ICPSR (Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research) Data Fair, already slated to be held online in the fall.

Reader, I pivoted!  I was able to take the proposal for the Gothenburg lightning talk (about 7 minutes), and expand it into a proposal for an hour-long webinar, online from Berkeley.  It was accepted!  As I started to work on it, I discovered I had perhaps promised I’d talk about approximately three hours’ worth of material, so condensing it was a challenge—perhaps because it is on a subject I feel passionately about—“Data Engagement for the Data-Hesitant Librarian”.  My strong belief is that many of us, and I tend to think especially about librarians, are led to believe that data is some big, mysterious, and daunting mountain we don’t want to climb, when actually we already have much more skill, comfort, and experience working with it than we think.

So, I tried to create a talk that had some fun in it, and some data-related resources that are practically begging to be explored.  Interested in how we can combat misinformation?  Check out, by the authors of the new book Calling Bull: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World.  What about critical data literacy and data justice?  Take a look at this guidebook from the Data Justice Lab, complete with interactive learning tools.  Perhaps a recipe from The Library Assessment Cookbook appeals?  Or maybe you just want to learn more about the Burning Man event, from the Burning Man Census data they collect each year.

Whatever your interest, geek out proudly! You can find the talk here ( —check out the other ICPSR Data Fair talks while you’re there) and the slides here (  I hope you find something to interest and engage you, and I’d love to hear what you think—feel free to drop me a line at!

Screenshot of Data Talk YouTube page