The Data Librarian's Handbook

Dec 2016 | 192pp

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The Data Librarian's Handbook

Robin Rice and John Southall

The eBook of this title is available to purchase from eBooks.com (for individuals) or from these suppliers (for libraries and institutions)

An insider’s guide to data librarianship packed full of practical examples and advice for any library and information professional learning to deal with data.

Interest in data has been growing in recent years. Support for this peculiar class of digital information – its use, preservation and curation, and how to support researchers’ production and consumption of it in ever greater volumes to create new knowledge, is needed more than ever.  Many librarians and information professionals are finding their working life is pulling them toward data support or research data management but lack the skills required.

The Data Librarian’s Handbook, written by two data librarians with over 30 years’ combined experience, unpicks the everyday role of the data librarian and offers practical guidance on how to collect, curate and crunch data for economic, social and scientific purposes.

With contemporary case studies from a range of institutions and disciplines, tips for best practice, study aids and links to key resources, this book is a must-read for all new entrants to the field, library and information students and working professionals.

Key topics covered include:

  • the evolution of data libraries and data archives
  • handling data compared to other forms of information
  • managing and curating data to ensure effective use and longevity
  • how to incorporate data literacy into mainstream library instruction and information literacy training
  • how to develop an effective institutional research data management (RDM) policy and infrastructure
  • how to support and review a data management plan (DMP) for a project, a key requirement for most research funders
  • approaches for developing, managing and promoting data repositories
  • handling and sharing confidential or sensitive data
  • supporting open scholarship and open science, ensuring data are discoverable, accessible, intelligible and assessable.

Readership: This title is for the practising data librarian, possibly new in their post with little experience of providing data support. It is also for managers and policy-makers, public service librarians, research data management coordinators and data support staff. It will also appeal to students and lecturers in iSchools and other library and information degree programmes where academic research support is taught.

1. Data librarianship: responding to research innovation

  • The rise of data librarians
  • Addressing early demand for data services in the social sciences
  • The growth of data collections
  • The origins of data libraries
  • A new map of support for services and researchers

2. What is different about data?

  • Attitudes and pre-conceptions
  • Is there a difference if data are created or re-used?
  • Data and intellectual property rights
  • The relationship of metadata to data
  • Big data
  • Long tail data
  • The need for data citation
  • Embracing and advocating data curation

3. Supporting data literacy

  • Information literacy with data awareness
  • Categories of data
  • Top tips for the reference interview
  • What has statistical literacy got to do with it?
  • Data journalism and data visualization
  • Topics in research data management
  • Training in data handling

4. Building a data collection

  • Policy and data
  • Promoting and sustaining use of a collection
  • Embedding data within the library

5. Research data management service and policy: working across your institution

  • Librarians and RDM
  • Why does an institution need an RDM policy?
  • What comprises a good RDM policy?
  • Tips for getting an RDM policy passed
  • Toolkits for measuring institutional preparedness for RDM
  • Planning RDM services: what do they look like?
  • Evaluation and benchmarking
  • What is the library’s role?

6. Data management plans as a calling card

  • Responding to challenges in data support
  • Leading by example: eight vignettes
  • The snowball effect of data management plans

7. Essentials of data repositories

  • Repository versus archive?
  • Put, get, search: what is a repository?
  • Scoping your data repository
  • Choosing a metadata schema
  • Managing access
  • Data quality review (or be kind to your end-users)
  • Digital preservation planning across space and time
  • Trusted digital repositories
  • The need for interoperability

8. Dealing with sensitive data

  • Challenging assumptions about data
  • Understanding how researchers view their research
  • Sensitivity and confidentiality – a general or specific problem?
  • A role in giving advice on consent agreements
  • Storing and preserving confidential data effectively

9. Data sharing in the disciplines

  • Culture change in academia

10. Supporting open scholarship and open science

  • Going green: impact of the open access movement
  • Free software, open data and data licences
  • Big data as a new paradigm?
  • Data as first-class research objects
  • Reproducibility in science
  • Do libraries need a reboot?

"Included are examples and case studies along with takeaways and reflective questions at the end of each chapter. Because of these features, this work would make for a helpful teaching tool for lecturers at information schools...Highly recommended for anyone just getting started in working with data."
- Nathalie Reid, University of California, Library Journal

"Rice and Southall write clearly and even entertainingly. The book is well organized and flows smoothly. Although both authors are from the United Kingdom, the book takes an international approach and is suitable for an international audience... its coverage is quite comprehensive. It is highly recommended as a source for all new data librarians and other librarians starting to work with data."
- Daniel Edelstein, University of Windsor, International Journal of Librarianship

"The Data Librarian’s Handbook covers a large amount of interesting terrain in thoughtful and accessible ways. It is both essential for any information professional interested in data and their management, and is also indicative of the increasing – and increasingly varied – role that data and data management play in libraries and more broadly across academia."
- Neil Stewart, LSE Library, LSE Review of Books

"The authors provide several case studies showing how librarians have been able to participate in the creation of grant mandated data management plans and, by doing so, establish close links and increase their credibility with researchers...the challenge for librarians – which the insights in this book very usefully address – is to be able to adapt their support to continuing new developments in the whole research lifecycle."
K & IM Refer

"The Data Librarian's Handbook is very highly recommended for the practicing data librarian, those new in their post with little experience of providing data support. The Data Librarian's Handbook will also prove to be an invaluable reference for managers and policymakers, public service librarians, research data management coordinators and data support staff. The Data Librarian's Handbook is unreservedly recommended as a core addition to community, governmental, and academic Library Science collections and supplemental studies reading lists."
- Midwest Book Review

"...offers a universal appeal to the budding data librarians. This book would also be useful to the scholars and participants of iSchools and short-term courses to understand a domain of an emerging professional role."
Journal of Scientometric Research

'This book does an excellent job of both reflecting on where data libraries have been and gazing ahead to where they should be. It is recommended reading for existing and aspiring data librarians, and a worthy handbook to keep at one’s side.'
- Jennifer Doty, Research Data Librarian, Emory University, Tecnical Services Quarterly

'The tone of the  writing is straightforward, engaging and accessible, and there are practical suggestions throughout the text, including some very useful sets of bullet-pointed lists. An advantage is that the authors have experience in and address both the US and European/British contexts, which gives this work a more international scope than some others...In  sum, this book provides a valuable reference source both  for the beginner and the more experienced practitioner, giving background and suggestions for practice that may be new to them. I highly recommend it!'
- Ann Glusker, Librarian/Research & Data Coordinator, University of Washington, IASSIST Quarterly

Robin Rice is Data Librarian at EDINA and Data Library, an organisation providing data services for research and education based in Information Services at the University of Edinburgh.

John Southall is Data Librarian for the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford. He is based in the Social Science Library and is subject consultant for Economics, Sociology and Social Policy & Intervention.

1. Data librarianship: responding to research innovation

Data collections and research data creation has led to the rise of a new kind of library professional: the data librarian. But to what extent is this in fact a new role and in what ways does it differ from traditional librarianship? By exploring the origins of data librarianship Chapter 1 outlines many of the different factors that have combined to encourage the development of data librarians in academic libraries and the growing demand for data services. With research data becoming normalised as just another information resource it has become part of the remit of academic libraries. This chapter considers the shift in how governments, funding bodies and other stakeholders view the long term future of data archiving resulting in a stronger commitment to encourage institutional data repositories. The sum effect of these developments is to create a need within universities for trained information specialists who are able to pull all these strands together. Chapter 1 demonstrates that libraries and their data librarians are ideally placed to address these needs.

2. What is different about data?

Chapter 2 looks at preconceptions of data librarianship and the misconception that working with data differs from the traditional work of the academic librarian. Rice and Southall consider the different attitudes and perspectives across disciplines emphasising the need for data librarians to know and understand their user communities in order to conduct successful research data management (RDM). This chapter walks us through data creation and reuse, intellectual property rights, the relationship between metadata and data, and the importance of familiarisation with big data and long-tail data. Finally the chapter discusses the need for the data librarian to embrace and advocate data curation to maintain, preserve and add value to data collections.

3. Supporting data literacy

In Chapter 3, Rice and Southall look at new ways for librarians to increase their data literacy and interact with learners and teachers. The emphasis of this chapter is on the benefits of data awareness in extending traditional information literacy and bibliographic instruction programmes. Librarians are encouraged to advocate proper data citation and develop their knowledge of sourcing datasets to provide guidance and support on data discovery. The chapter looks at the importance of categorising data, provides tips for data reference interviews, considers the relevance of statistical literacy and gives an overview of good practice in data management. The chapter ends with suggestions for training in data handling, reiterating the need for reskilling to maintain data literacy.

4. Building a data collection

Chapter 4 explores the acquisition and development of digital resources in the context of a larger library of printed material. Rice and Southall recommend the development of a formal policy to encapsulate the range of activities to be undertaken by the data librarian in the acquisition of data. Identifying, for instance, the different challenges maintaining a digital data collection presents such as access, selection, promotion and monitoring of use.

5. Research data management service and policy: working across your institution

Chapter 5 focuses on how to develop an effective institutional research data management (RDM) policy and infrastructure and why this is so important to research institutions. This chapter offers a guide to creating a good RDM policy, how to get it passed and how to measure the institute’s preparedness for implementation of RDM. The chapter provides information on governance and sustainability of RDM systems and the library’s role in implementing and maintaining it.

6. Data management plans as a calling card

Chapter 6 outlines the importance of developing a data management plan (DMP) using eight case studies from a range of disciplines to show how the demands of RDM are being dealt with at different institutions and how advice on data management planning is being used to establish links and recognition. The DMP can be used as a point of entry – a calling card – to introduce researchers to the support that is available to them. Not only do they ensure early involvement in the research lifecycle but if maintained as living documents they can also record the evolution a research project undergoes after funding has been awarded. For the data librarian or data professional they provide an opportunity to engage with research projects, increase their knowledge and contribute to developing a stronger culture of good research practice, preservation and re-use.

7. Essentials of data repositories

In Chapter 7 the authors present approaches for developing, managing and promoting data repositories. Rice & Southall pursue a definition of a digital repository, distinguishing it from data archives and attempting to outline its essential characteristics. This chapter covers repository platforms, required scope or coverage of a date repository, metadata schema, metadata standards for datasets, managing access, quality review, digital preservation and the need for interoperability.

8. Dealing with sensitive data

What is meant by confidential or sensitive data? Chapter 8 examines the handling and sharing of confidential or sensitive data and the need for librarians to understand what researchers mean when they state their data are confidential. This chapter lists the wide range of concerns regarding sensitive data and considers how to understand researchers’ view of their research, its reuse and sharing. Rice and Southall touch on the question of access and importance of consent agreements as well as considering effective storage and preservation of confidential data. The authors discuss the variety created through anonymization and question how we make data protected yet accessible.

9. Data sharing in the disciplines

Chapter 9 details different attitudes to data sharing across disciplines and even across generations. Young researchers, for instance, were more concerned about being able to publish results before releasing data than older researchers. Re-use of data in the social sciences has always been valued while in Psychology, there is a lack of strong tradition of verification or data sharing. Astronomy is recognized as a leader in open data sharing while the arts and humanities most commonly conduct small and unfunded research projects, which have no stakeholder requirements for data management planning and lack any tradition of data sharing. This chapter gives a snapshot of the changing approach to open data and the growing demand/opportunity for information professionals to get involved and make a difference.

10. Supporting open scholarship and open science

Chapter 10 discusses support for open scholarship and open science, ensuring data are discoverable, accessible, intelligible and assessable. The notable rise in the perceived value of data sharing across disciplines has two distinct origins, which influence disciplines in tandem: the open access movement in its broadest sense; and data science, with its roots in computational methods and its embrace of the ‘data revolution’. In this chapter the authors draw evidence from the broader area of scholarly communication in order to bring the discourse about the nature of data librarianship right up to the present, and peer into a possible future – one where technologies may be harnessed in ways that lead to an acceleration of not just data accumulation but knowledge creation and dissemination.



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