Category: Data

Where’s the Library Research Data?

In conversation with the Acquisitor a week or so ago, we briefly touched on the subject of librarians sharing and storing their own data. This has been humming around in my head and while my thoughts aren’t fully formed, after an exchange with Dorothea on Thursday, I wanted to try and articulate something.

What are librarians doing to share their data?  

We’re chasing after our research faculty, telling them about the data life cycle and best practices. We’re trying to figure out repositories–both institutional and subject–for storage. We’re identifying metadata. We’re talking about reuse and permutating old data sets into something we can leverage for future research.  We’re educating ourselves in statistics, analysis, and visualization.  We’re worrying about what exists for interdisciplinary discovery.

We’re not storing our own research data. 

At least, we don’t seem to be. I’m not going down the path of linked data. I mean other data gathered by librarians either as part of their regular work that could be published and used by researchers or data gathered by librarians actively doing research.

Have you done research ? If so, what happened to your data at the end of your project? What about the data you’re collecting for a project right now?  Did you create a Data Management Plan? Is de-identified data available for me to download? Do you remember what the labels on those spreadsheets mean? Do you have a guilty looking pile of CD-ROMs, floppy discs, or print outs?

The one IRB internal review I read, as an oft-faulty memory serves, said that the data would be stored on a computer in a locked office for a stated period of time that was reliant on publication. I don’t recall seeing long term storage, shared data, reuse, etc.

Having started wondering about this, I’ve realized how much work is still to come for my own research projects and maintaining or publishing that data.  Presently, across my three active projects, everything is being captured in Google Spreadsheets. This is primarily due to the fact that none of my projects involve person sensitive data and that everything I’m doing  involves working with people who aren’t anywhere near my zip code. Those shared proprietary format spreadsheets are fine for working documents, but I won’t want to rely on that as a long term solution.

Thinking about other research that I’m aware of, keeping and sharing our data definitely could have some consequences.  How often have you filled out a seemingly anonymous survey with a soupcon of frustration that is fine for behind closed doors but perhaps not for public consumption? What is our responsibility to manage the risk of our survey subjects when we ask questions that could, if the raw data and the open ended comments were published, potentially cause employment issues?  Note that this all ties back to that piece I wrote about IRB training a couple of weeks ago (also, if you haven’t read the comments, please do).

There’s also the question of de-identifying data that could have patron information tied to it. If we’re making those data sets available, what are the requirements for access? What risk to the patrons is there? As Dorothea reminded me, we do not just pay lip service to patron privacy. How do we balance that with sharing data? What happens when we go beyond charts and summaries? We’re obviously not up against some of the same restrictions as my patrons face with health data but the PATRIOT Act and various letters and gag orders come to mind.

So we consider the risks or potential risks.  Also on our plate are storage (who wants to sign up to run the Library Research Data Repository?), access and discovery, identifying opportunities for reuse. Speaking as one who regularly suffers survey fatigue, surely librarianship is ripe for survey data reuse.  Has anyone used someone else’s data? How did  you cite it? Are there systematic reviews and meta-analysis that we could do, if only we had access?  What kind of data would you like to be able to get your hands on from other libraries and can we make it easily available?

That’s where I am thus far. Many, many questions to consider.  What have I missed? What else is a consideration? Have you shared your data?

And perhaps most importantly:

Why aren’t we setting a better example for our faculty?

Data: Get Thee To Class

I know I’m not the only one struggling with learning data management in a very few minutes of free time a day, though the mandates are upon us, the faculty are asking, and we really need to get to the students before they graduate.

Enter Dorothea Salo’s continuing education class: Introduction to Research Data Management being offered this fall through UW-Madison SLIS. It will be ten weeks, asynchronous, and the price tag is respectable without being outrageous.

I’m not sure how much continuing ed/professional development funds I’m getting for this next school year but I am going to do my best to find the money to take this class.

Go sign up. Right now. Really.  This will be a good class and, considering some other people I know who are also looking at taking this, should have really great conversations in the student forums.  Just leave me one spot.

Update: If you have questions, please feel free to contact Dorothea at


Open Access Tenure: Back to Class

I have my syllabus!! If you checked in last week, you’ll notice I mentioned a class on the last line. To my dismay, my professor commented that class was canceled due to lack of enrollment. I knew at that point in time there were only 8 people registered for the class and assumed that work, like some other unis, had a minimum of ten limit.  Fortunately, he was thinking of the intermediate course and we’re still on!

Starting on May 28 (well, 29th, since the university is closed for Memorial Day), I’ll be in MPHE 494: Introduction to Quantitative Data Analysis.

If you’d told me I would take this class five years ago, I would have probably said an interesting idea, though perhaps not very helpful at the time. If you’d said it during undergrad I doubt I would have believed you. But as the years have progressed, I find myself increasingly interested in data, data management, databases, data access–all of those things and data analysis is certainly a part of it.

I haven’t been in a formal class since finishing my master’s program in 2005. I can’t believe it’s been 7 years already. I really never intended to go this long without taking more classes but life has a way of happening at a shockingly fast rate.  Also, this has allowed me to forget just what a sticker shock textbooks come with. Our required text is Statistical Methods for Psychology (Howell, 8th ed) and no, I can’t borrow it from work (we don’t own it-I checked) or ILL it.

I did include taking this class as one of my goals for the next quarter/annual review period. It’s something that has direct relevance to my work, will help me be a better medical librarian, and as such I think it deserves including. I have to look at the licensing and decide if I want to download SPSS at work or at home or if I can get a license that will allow me to install it on two computers. We do have it on the machines in my building but it’s not on my work machine as memory serves–note to self, check that tomorrow–so it might be easier/better to put it on a home machine and then use the work machines as needed if I’m staying late.

This is also something I talked about at Computers in Libraries when talking about what librarians may need to do to get themselves prepared to support researchers using data more thoroughly. Certainly I think this will affect the longer presentation I’ll be giving this fall at LITA forum about self-education. While I know this isn’t technically 100% self-ed, it’s something I’ve sought out for myself, not something mandated by work.

It also means getting to be even more efficient with my time.  Because spare time has been so abundant to date.

Question for the readers: Are you taking any classes this summer? What are you doing towards your continuing education?


Data Jobs: Just a few more

Happy Friday Ducklings.  Just a bit of best of. I’ve been wading through the backlog and frankly, if they’re making the candidate guess, them I’m not seeing a whole lot of commitment to data on their part as yet.

SUNY Geneseo has a position open for a Business and Data Librarian.

We’re starting to see some management positions that take into account that they’ll need to handle data or supervise people do.  One of those is the California Institute of Technology, who is hiring a Head of Research and Information Services.  No word on whether you get to work with their equivalent of Charles Eppes. 🙂

If I were ready to go back to New York, I might look at the Translational Science Librarian position at Weill Cornell Medical Library, which is working with their Clinical and Translational Science Center. We got a CTSA at UIC and we do a fair amount of work with them. Would always like to do more.

On the other hand, NYU is looking for a Librarian for Sociology and Psychology. Why this one in particular? This phrase “with special emphases on supporting the intensive use of data by scholars in these areas and maintaining deep ties with the Libraries’ Data Service Studio.” That’s what I want to see for liaison positions.

And Lehigh University has embraced Business and Data. I question that they are saying one can get away with an MS in Stats for this position, there’s a lot more to librarianship than statistics (remind me I said that in year, will you?) but they do have a very interesting Business/Data Librarian position posted.


Data Jobs: April 20 –Don’t But Should…

Here are just some titles of jobs that don’t really talk about research data management in the description, but a wise candidate might want to be thinking about it…

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville: Health Science Librarian  (y’all know I think it’s important for the health sciences)

Louisiana State University: Assistant Librarian for Government Documents/Microforms & Circ Supervisor Librarian. 

Old Dominion University: Social Sciences and Government Information Reference Services Librarian

Texas A&M University-San Antonio: Business Librarian

Memorial University Libraries (Canada): Humanities Collection Development Librarian 

Mt. Sinai School of Medicine: Medical Librarian Administrative Coordinator