Creating a Data Literacy Community of Practice

Why go it alone when you can grow together?

A community of practice (COP) is a group of people who share an interest in a topic and come together to fulfill both individual and group goals. Often people come together from different backgrounds and use their expertise to build understanding in new and different ways for the group. Creating a COP is an excellent way to learn about new concepts with like-minded individuals.

This blog will discuss our own experience trying to create a COP in Florida using professional networks, existing infostructure, and past research. We will discuss what worked for us, what didn’t work, and how you can apply some of the same principles toward building your own community of practice. While this blog will discuss a virtual data and privacy literacy community of practice, the takeaways should be transferable to different topics and different modalities.


Our experience

In order to build on our interest and discussion of data and privacy literacy, we decided to build a COP in the state of Florida around the topic. Our first step was to recruit colleagues interested in our topic. We did this by utilizing our collective networks. Specifically, we reached out to colleagues or friends of colleagues to invite them to an interest meeting. Our original group was eight people. At that meeting we discussed the goal of our work: to host a webinar series that would lead to a wider community of practice among the librarians of Florida.

During that initial meeting we discussed:

  • Name of series
  • Series goals
  • Methods of communication
  • Other potential collaborators 
  • Possible takeaways: reading lists, other resources
  • Community of Practice

From that meeting, we divided up topics related to data and privacy literacy, and each group worked to create a webinar on the subtopic they chose.

The workshops were:

  • Data and Privacy Ethics: We provided an overview of data ethics to set the pace and scope of future conversations.
  • Online Education, Privacy and Student Rights: We explored student privacy related to online instruction and digital learning.
  • What Libraries Collect: We covered the types of data our institutions collect, examined how we protect this data, and interrogated how we use data ethically to improve services without causing harm to our patrons.
  • Who’s Afraid of Privacy Literacy?: We shared classroom-ready strategies for theory-informed teaching, explored privacy literacy learning objects to suit a range of classroom contexts, and learned how they are informed by theory and critique.
  • Data Ethics and Privacy Literacy Discussions: In the finale of the series, we discussed everything we learned and laid the groundwork for the wider community of practice.

Our webinar series was well received. This is in large part because we built on the community we already had. We sought those who already had an interest and reached out to those who were experienced with the topic. We also had the advantage of being in Florida, where questions of privacy are of great interest due to the state’s sunshine laws.

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Getting started

Creating your own community of practice is a great way to delve into any topic. Use the following steps to build a community of practice.

Decide on a topic

What do you want to learn more about? Remember: you don’t have to an expert to lead a community of practice. Be sure to define what the topic is; this will make inviting others easier.

Choose the modality

A community does not have to have close proximity; in our instance, our community was academic librarians in the state of Florida, but we were nowhere close to each other. We chose to work together virtually, but you can work in-person, or hybrid as well. If you do choose virtual or hybrid, be sure to choose a software that works for everyone.

Invite people to join the community

Use networks you have already built to find people interested in the topic. You can also invite people who have published or presented on the topic. In our case we reached out to librarians who were publishing and presenting on privacy literacy and had them join our group. You want a community that is large enough to bring in diverse voices, but not so large that you can’t really communicate.

Establish the ground rules

Build a solid base of expectations for the community, regular meeting times, and output (if any).

Lessons learned

While we were happy with the work we did for our community practice, we would be remiss to skip assessment and introspection. Thankfully, the things we would change are things you can look out for from the start.

The software and permissions for the recorded content

We worked with an existing system in the state called Florida Library Webinars. They do a great job of marketing and archiving content. However, they made some changes that included the software they used and closing permissions outside of Florida. This meant a smaller group of people who could be a part of the community, as they needed to live in Florida after the permission change. Remember: if you use an outside entity to archive your materials, you may lose some flexibility.

Figuring out a system for future communication and sharing resources

This can be one of the most difficult parts of creating a virtual community of practice. Decide early what systems or software you will use to communicate, and make sure they are accessible to everyone. This includes where to store materials such as presentations, handouts, readings, etc.


In conclusion, we were able to start the conversation on a topic of interest to us, and work with universities around the state and country. Our biggest successes were:

  • Getting three flagship schools in the state of Florida talking about data ethics and privacy literacy
  • Starting conversations among academic librarians in Florida
  • Bringing presenters from different universities together and seeing what different schools were doing

A community of practice is an excellent way to further your knowledge and research on a particular topic. Collaboration as well as a diversity of ideas and experiences can build a strong foundation to create experts on any topic. The community aspect of a COP creates collaborators, serendipitous experiences, excitement of scholarship, and a safe space to explore.

More resources

Archer, A., Benjes-Small, C., Burton, K., Resor-Whicker, J., & Seipp, R. (2021). Mentoring each other: Creating a community of practice for aspiring and current library managers. College & Research Libraries News, 82(10), 474.

Burress, T., Mann, E., & Neville, T. (2020). Exploring data literacy via a librarian-faculty learning community: A case study. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 46(1), 102076.

Power, H. & Ha, C. (2023). A multi-sectoral community of practice amongst librarians. Partnership, 18 (1),

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