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Dragonfly July 15th, 2019
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Do You Think Health Sciences Librarians Should Get Involved with Big Data in Healthcare?

Posted by on April 27th, 2018 Posted in: Data Science


In the NNLM Big Data in Healthcare: Exploring Emerging Roles course, we asked participants, as they progressed through the course to consider the following questions: Do you think health sciences librarians should get involved with big data in healthcare? Where should librarians get involved, if you think they should? If you think they should not, explain why. You may also combine a “should/should not” approach if you would like to argue both sides. NNLM will feature responses from different participants over the coming weeks.

Written by Sara Pimental, Senior Consultant, Kaiser Permanente, San Francisco, CA

My answer to this question is a qualified yes. However, librarians don’t HAVE to get involved to be successful. I think people panic when they think if they don’t get involved in every aspect of new trends in librarianship they will become obsolete. There are many ways to evolve; big data is just one of them.

Since I am involved in one aspect of utilizing Big Data, I would have to say yes, librarians who have the interest, should get their hands dirty. I can see skills that all librarians possess being useful in all aspects of BIG Data. For those more technically inclined, they should go all the way and become data scientists. Many us use have learned programing languages and other similar tasks and could do very well in this area.

For those of us who have no desire to become so technical but have a curious fondness for metadata there are many niches for that type of person. This is where I have landed. I assist not just with taxonomy and metadata for my website but also with linking structured data from the EHR with clinical information available on the website and soon with subscribed third party. I could envision a librarian’s talents also being useful with unstructured data such as the notes in the EHR.

In conclusion, there are a myriad of ways a librarian can get involved with Big Data. In this class we have learned about quite a few of them. I remember when I attended the opening reception at NLM’s Biomedical Informatics Course at Woods Hole, Dr. Lindberg told us we were change agents. I hope some of the participants of this class become just as inspired.

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Developed resources reported in this program are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.

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