What is a Data Librarian?: A Content Analysis of Job Advertisements for Data Librarians in the United States Academic Libraries Page: 2
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One of the major changes affecting Library and Information Science(LIS) jobs is the
phenomenon of Big Data. Katal, Wazid, and Goudar (2013) described big data as having the
four Vs: Volume, Velocity, Variety, and Value. If we look at this definition of big data, then
this concept is not new to libraries, as librarians have been dealing with big data since the
ancient Library of Alexandria. Librarians in the past dealt with big data in the forms of scrolls
and printed books, but librarians never termed these collections as "Big Data".
The emergence of "Big Data" in society has resulted in the increase in the number of datasets
available to researchers at academic institutions. Government agencies, health organizations,
and university libraries now routinely provide open access to many kinds of data. The rapidly
growing information communication technology(ICT) has resulted in the emergence of e-
science and e-research, which has created new job opportunities for academic librarians with
the advent of the data librarian.
What is a data librarian? This is a question that has been asked before by Liscouski (1997)
and his answer was that a data librarian "will provide a means of storing, retrieving,
searching and recording access to laboratory data" (p. 199). This definition might hold true in
the boundary of a laboratory, but is this how we define a professional title that is now
becoming more common in academic libraries? The main issues underlying the need to
define and answer this question as part of our research is that academic library directors have
begun hiring for "data librarian" without there being any clear definition of what it means and
what data librarians do in an academic library setting. It is even more important that LIS
educators and curriculum developers know the core competencies of this profession to better
prepare students in meeting employer demands. The LIS curriculum today is in need of
bridging the gap to meet professional demands of big data skills in academic libraries. The
American Library Association(ALA) offers specializations and competency statements for
law librarianship, medical librarianship, school librarianship, youth librarianship, and music
librarianship. Why not data librarianship?
This research explores data librarian job advertisements found through multiple online job
boards in the United States academic libraries. The purpose of doing this exploration is to
move towards discovering core competencies for data librarianship and finding emerging
trends in skill requirements, job responsibilities, and qualifications needed to be a data
librarian. The results of this preliminary study should be a starting point in aligning LIS
curricula to meet the needs of prospective employers, along with highlighting the expanding
boundaries of the LIS profession.
"Academic librarians have a history of facing changes in technology that vastly reshape their
work. The digital age has brought incredible changes in the way information and data are
produced, consumed, adapted, and shared, requiring a transformation of resources and
services" (Frank and Pharo, 2016, p.536). The traditional library was easy to define, it was
the bricks and mortar structure with a clear and controlled entry point that contained and
protected the selected physical resources over which the library asserted control and
curatorial responsibility (Lagoze, 2014). The role and designation of librarian has been
clearly defined and stated by ALA, but as society transitions from the information age into
the era of big data, the change in academic libraries is noticeable with new job titles
Here’s what’s next.
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Khan, Hammad & Du, Yunfei. What is a Data Librarian?: A Content Analysis of Job Advertisements for Data Librarians in the United States Academic Libraries, paper, July 31, 2018; (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1225772/m1/2/: accessed March 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Information.