HSLI Newsletter

Serving Illinois Health Information Professionals

2015 ACRL Report on Library Trends, Part II

An overview of the middle section of ACRL’s 2015 Environmental Scan is below. (The full text of the document can be found here.) I’ll have an overview of the last part of the report later this week.

Research Data Services

Responses to U.S. Government and Funding Agencies’ Policies

  • Recent years have seen increased efforts by the federal government, in particular the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), to provide as much access as possible to scientific research. The goal is for the public, businesses, and members of the scientific community to be able to view the direct results of federally-backed scientific research, via peer-reviewed publications and electronic data. In making such a large amount of research publically available, the government will need to take into account the confidentiality and privacy issues that will likely arise.
  • As curators of information in all its formats, libraries will have a significant role in making this research available. Collaboration will be essential for developing top-notch digital platforms that can make scholarly research available in multiple formats and to users at different institutions.
  • At the same time, libraries will need to balance institutional needs and resources with broader pressures in academia and government, not to mention international competition. With their expertise in managing and preserving information, libraries are positioned to play a key role in helping government agencies make as much of their own information available to the public as possible.

Understanding Researchers’ Data Sharing and Management Practices

  • As large a role that libraries can play in making scholarly research more-broadly available, that role will be restricted if researchers are limited by institution-wide rules affecting the ways in which research data can be managed and shared. Even if researchers are not hindered by institutional regulations, their work can still fall by the wayside, in terms of accessibility and online preservation, if individual researchers and their colleagues are not aware of the latest trends and procedures regarding data sharing.
  • At the same time, libraries and other actors within the organization do need to familiarize themselves with researchers’ specific needs. Although programs for disseminating data and research may already be in place, these may not meet the specific requirements for making work in a particular field more accessible. The ways in which data are collected, analyzed, and shared may vary from discipline to discipline, especially between the hard sciences and the humanities.

Advances in Data-Curation Services

  • Even though academic libraries are have long been a key player in collecting and preserving data, the changing amounts and types of information being produced require that libraries reach out to other departments, and even institutions, in order to manage those data as effectively as possible. Libraries may have to form partnerships with departments or institutions with which they have not collaborated in the past, especially to gain access to information on the standards used in various fields to collect and preserve data.
  • That having been said, libraries still have a major role to play in deciding which curation practices that are created or modified will ultimately have the largest impact in the long run. It will be crucial to train library staff, through continuing education and other professional-development activities, to keep them up to speed on the latest policies and programs, especially those related to specialized areas of research in the hard sciences. At the same time, library schools will need to incorporate instruction on the latest data-curation practices into their curricula.

Data Information Literacy: National and Regional Projects

  • Ensuring data literacy among students and other library users has long been one of the main goals of broader information-literacy efforts. The ongoing relevance of data literacy was recently underscored by a new list of core competencies for information literacy that includes skills in data management.
  • To make data literacy and data management a significant part of information literacy, data librarians will need to make their library colleagues aware of the vital role that data literacy plays in successful library use. At the same time, data librarians will need to familiarize themselves with broader standards for information literacy, so that they can shape data-literacy programs to match those requirements.
  • Data librarians should also educate themselves on programs that have worked at the national level. so that they can determine which aspects of those programs would be most useful at the institutional or regional level. Such broader programs include the New England Collaborative Data Management Curriculum (NECDMC), among various medical and scientific libraries in the Northeast.

Data-Management Services: New Specialties for Subject Librarians

  • Libraries are playing an increasing role in locating, recording, and managing data, not just in the hard sciences, but in the humanities. With data-management services therefore becoming an area of increasing importance to libraries, it is crucial that, whenever possible, libraries hire individuals to specialize as data-management librarians, rather than assigning the duties to existing staff members.
  • Due to the broad reach of data-management services, however, some existing staff members may need to be retrained, regardless, in order to fill gaps in knowledge of the latest trends in collecting and sifting through data. Surveys show that library administrators need to become more aware that staff may not have all of the skills and experiences needed for managing such large and diverse amounts of data. Providing ongoing professional-development opportunities in this area will be critical.
  • Due to these changes, it may even be necessary for libraries to restructure themselves organizationally, so that they will be better-equipped to meet the needs of data researchers. For such a reorganization to be successful, increased collaboration among departments within the library will be essential, as librarians from different backgrounds will need to pool their knowledge into data-management projects.

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