Announcing the First Book Needs Index

_First Book Insights - Basic Needs

We at First Book are proud to announce the First Book Needs Index: a new research tool that works to combine public and proprietary data in new ways in order to identify areas lacking resources and affecting kids in need.

An interactive and dynamic mapping tool developed in partnership with Palantir Technologies, the First Book Needs Index meshes publicly available measures of basic need with First Book’s own network of more than 325,000 registered educators who serve low-income communities. This tool is one of multiple that will come together to comprise First Book Insights: a major new initiative that combines First Book’s 25 years of experience serving low-income communities with best-in-class research.

“In our 25 years of work with educators serving children from low-income neighborhoods, we know that the challenges of poverty aren’t just determined by lack of financial resources — access to books, adequate schools, healthcare and food also deeply affect a child’s opportunity to learn,” said Kyle Zimmer, First Book president, CEO and co-founder. “Our work with Palantir to conceptualize and develop the First Book Needs Index has been transformative in giving us a fully searchable, dynamic tool to visualize and understand the dimensions of need across the country. This promises to be a game-changer – both to advance First Book’s mission and to provide funders and stakeholders with significantly greater community and social impact.”

The First Book Needs Index combines several powerful databases into a single system. There are three of these databases. The first consists of publicly available data that measures poverty by looking at basic needs and educational needs. Included in the measurement of basic needs is information about housing, about summer feeding programs, and about Medicaid. Included in the measurement of educational needs is information about access to public libraries and the locations of Title I schools. The second database is unique to First Book as it comes from our network of highly-involved educators who work with children in need. Our members have been an amazing source of knowledge on the needs and characteristics of low-income communities. The third and final database works with our partners sites who allow us to geographically focus on areas of need.

By combining these databases in a fully searchable tool, stakeholders and investors can identify areas of need and target resources to communities and kids in need even better than before. Among the most eye-opening findings are the identification of resource deserts. For example, while 37 percent of U.S. counties have an above average need of basic needs, 58 percent of U.S. counties have an above average education need. The Needs Index, used to generate these numbers, revealed a previously unseen need.

First Book Needs Index is the first product launch from First Book Insights: the organization’s new umbrella research hub. First Book Insights’ tools and data sets allow a deeper understanding of the needs of low-income communities, and allow our partners to fund needs at the national and local levels.

First Book is conducting live demonstrations of the First Book Needs Index by appointment. Inquiries can be sent to

Eligible educators, librarians, program leaders, and others serving children in need can join our network at For more information, please visit or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter.