Data can be scary! When we think about data, we often think about ‘big data’ or data science and how data scientists use programming skills to extract large datasets for analysis or use visualization software to display complex datasets. However, you don’t have to be a data scientist, a data librarian, or a health science librarian to be interested in data or use data in your daily life. I am proof of that concept. On a daily basis I need or use data in my librarian practice, my teaching, and/or my research. I contend that ALL librarians (academic librarians, school librarians, and public librarians) should consider how data integrates or impacts their own practice.
As the data coordinator for the MidContinental Region (MCR) in the Network of the National Library of Medicine, I like to think about a broader data vision. In addition to biomedical or clinical research data, data can be assessment data we collect in libraries, statistical data that our students need to find to support a paper argument, numerical or textual data collected and analyzed around a topic when conducting research. Helping students manipulate data can be one of the conduits for teaching digital literacy skills to students at a variety of levels. Data does not have to be ‘big’ data, it can be ‘small’ data or ‘thick’ data (more on this to come in future post). Starting small and learning about data as it impacts your daily work or life can be a great way to dip your toes into the data science world. Start by checking out the first level of the NNLM Data Roadmap (Data Demystified) to begin your data journey to scaffold up your knowledge and skills, and find data topics of interest that are relevant to YOUR OWN librarian context!
This is the first blog post in a blog series, Living on the Data Fringe: Through a Library Liaison Lens, that will appear on this MCR blog over the next few months to help you scaffold up with data and rethink using data in your practice. Two blogs each month will help take the scariness out of data, and provide a context to help you learn more about alternative data topics, understand the different levels of data usage and expertise, and try out some resources and tools. As librarians we can enhance our practice by learning more about data, and using data in our teaching/librarianship (using data to learn about our libraries), in our own research, and even help others find data for their research. Reach out with questions or suggestions for future data blog topics!
Stay tuned and Happy Halloween!
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