The University of Virginia Library is embarking on a new effort to collaborate with the larger Charlottesville community and a University Equity Initiative to imagine and co-create a Charlottesville-Area Regional Equity Atlas, a platform to combine, visualize, and make accessible data about local disparities. An Equity Atlas serves as a data and policy tool for leaders and advocates to advance a more equitable community while helping citizens hold decision-makers accountable. The UVA Library was recently awarded a 2-year, $150,000 grant to support the collaboration.
When the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) sent a call for proposals to promote community change through the Community Catalyst Initiative, a team of librarians led by Rebecca Coleman recognized the opportunity to leverage the Library’s unique knowledge and resources to serve our region. Working with the University’s Initiative for the Redress of Inequity through Community Engaged Scholarship, the Library team proposed a planning grant to support a larger community effort to create and sustain a resource for understanding the region’s apparent and hidden inequities. Grant funds will be used primarily to support partnerships with community-based organizations to place the community’s voices at the center of the Equity Atlas development.
Multiple regional Equity Atlases exist, serving local and national needs and highlighting inequities in education, health, housing, transportation, and other areas of social wellbeing. The Library collaboration seeks to build on this work in several ways. “One goal,” says Coleman, Principal Investigator for the grant, “is to move beyond readily available data to incorporate information derived from both community-initiated research and University-initiated research conducted with community partners. We want to contribute to an online Regional Equity Atlas that will be sustained and used by our community, built to address community priorities, and open to relevant data and information from a wide variety of sources.”
A second goal, notes co-PI Michele Claibourn, is to use the creation of a regional Equity Atlas as a catalyst for creating an open data culture in the region and enhancing the community’s capacity to generate, use, and openly share data related to local inequity. “The city and surrounding counties, the University, and the many, many community organizations in our region each hold some piece of the puzzle to better understanding and highlighting local conditions and history. The Atlas is a means to pull together and retain existing information, assess critical gaps in our knowledge, and map out a better future,” Claibourn added.
The UVA Library is excited to work with the Equity Initiative and the regional community to create an Equity Atlas that will serve as a useful tool for educators, non-profits, advocacy groups, policy makers, and the public. The Library team is particularly grateful to the City of Charlottesville, the Adiuvans Foundation, the United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area, and Smart Cville for their support in securing this funding.
The UVA Library was one of 12 projects funded by this year through the Community Catalyst Initiative—visit the IMLS site to learn more.
For more information on the Charlottesville-Area Regional Equity Atlas, contact CvilleEquityAtlas@virginia.edu.