Key Foci of Library Data Services: ‘Human-driven’ Conversations and Interactions that Librarians Can Offer

by Natsuko Nicholls

Highlight of the DLF Forum 2013

In early November, eight of us from the University of Michigan Library attended the DLF Forum in Austin, TX. It was my first time attending the Forum where over 350 attendees gathered to share research, library practices and experiences, and exchange ideas for new initiatives in the digital library community. The Forum 2013 kicked off with a provocative keynote address by Dr. R. David Lankes who put forward the assertion that it is librarians (not libraries) that are good and necessary things; it is librarians (not libraries) that collect, organize and provide access to information. The focus of his talk was on the fundamental contribution of individuals delivering what they do, i.e., professional services within the library and information business. Service is important and its provider is an essential part of that service. The increasing outcome of service is knowledge creation—more importantly, it’s about human phenomena and process during which librarians facilitate and engage in conversations in order to introduce researchers to new information and different ways of interpreting and organizing it. We were all reminded to keep asking—even within an institutional context, for whom do we collect, organize and provide access to information? Who benefits from it?

<Image of David’s slide>

Why, and how, do we develop research data services?

Librarians have been the custodians and managers of information for centuries. Today, we are evolving and building expertise to continue and enhance this tradition so that we can help researchers preserve research data from the past, of the present and for the future. Now that more funding agencies and publishers are requiring researchers to share their data, many librarians across institutions have taken on a new role of data stewardship. The question is when and how librarians could or should initiate conversations with stakeholders within their own libraries and campus research communities. How can librarians seize the opportunity to further develop their unique connections with researchers by becoming a resource to support them with data management and curation activities? The panel Carpe Data at the DLF Forum 2013 addressed this issue discussing both internal and external outreach strategies and training methods as part of data service development,which nicely synchronized the keynote’s message about engagement and the contributions made by individuals in providing research support and library services. The presenters from the four institutions (Baylor, Purdue, U of Maryland, and U of Michigan) shared their own experiences in their varied contexts while highlighting the common and important message that institutional data management and curation services need not only deal directly with research data, but also to those who produce those data. In my next post, I will share a narrative about ‘human-driven’ conversations and interactions from my own institution where subject librarians are increasingly engaged in offering data management services and resources for Michigan researchers.

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