I’ve become increasingly more active with a volunteer group of humanitarians who give technology aid after a major disaster, such as the one that occurred this week in Japan. For those that haven’t heard of this emerging interdisciplinary field of crisis mapping, crisis mappers were featured on CNN for the instantaneous response and creation of the person finder application and aggregation of news sources. Voluntweeters around the world started self-organizing in the information space, using twitter and other microblogging environments to collect and disseminate information, creating mash-ups of satellite images for disaster and crisis management support — in just the last 24 hours. As a rule, time is the most valuable resource during these events and crisis mappers are very fast to respond when a crisis happens.
So what does this mean for libraries? Part of my graduate research is looking at the needs of crisis mappers from an information needs perspective. This emerging field of crisis mapping during a disaster is supported by loosely organizated individuals en masse without geographic restrictions. As librarians and information specialists we need to start looking at how we can help seek and provide information they are looking for. Why? Because it is our job.
In my research I am looking at crisis mapping for two reasons — how are crisis mappers doing it and how can we help as information specialists? This brings up more questions: If the crisis mapping community sets up interactive maps to help identify needs and resources of a community, how can we support that data? How can we help support and manage the evolving coverage of resources being created in response to a major disaster? What is our role in organizing that information and making it universally accessible and useful? Do we have the skills to support the many new web-based relief tools emerging — and do we want to have a role?
I hope to have the answers to those questions in the coming months as I continue to do my research.
Librarian Intelligence. It’s the new now.