I’m conducting research on how people get information in Berks County. My first step was to ask community members to go on an “information scavenger hunt,” trying to find specific pieces of information about their city, township or borough. That information was fed into a toolkit provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation that worked some digital magic to produce a scorecard for Berks County.

The scorecard showed that access to information in Berks County is fair (the options were good, fair or poor). The basic information we need to function in a democracy is available through local websites and libraries. We scored “good” on many of the infrastructure questions, including the availability of free internet at our local libraries.

I’m still piecing the information together for a final report, including some interesting findings from a study Albright’s communication department is conducting regarding access to information for the Latino community.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a link to a website with you. Sunshine Review provides a letter grade to states, counties, and municipalities based on the accessibility of their public information. Here are some highlights:

  • Pennsylvania received an “A”
  • Berks County received a “D-” (although it hasn’t been reviewed since 2009)
  • Reading received a “B-” with its last review in November 2012
  • Local school district grades are all over the board

Heidi Williamson
Vice President for Grantmaking
and Communication