With the ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) 2019 conference less than a week away, there has been some discussion about research data receiving limited attention in this year’s program. Academic libraries are at the forefront of key issues in data management, sharing, and use, so we wanted to make sure to highlight this important topic. Here’s a preview of some of the data-related sessions, lightning talks, and posters we’re looking forward to.

Research Data Management and Sharing

With funding agencies increasingly demanding that scholars make plans to responsibly manage and preserve research data, libraries are taking on the enormous task of guiding researchers through a maze of options and technical hurdles. Rebecca Bryant, Jan Fransen, Maliaca Oxnam, and Anne Rauh will discuss how libraries can lead the way on research information management (Friday, 8.30-9.30, room 4). OCLC will also hold a quick “hot topic” session on research data management at their exhibition booth (Thurssay, 3.30-3.45, booth 525), and a lightning talk by Jamie Wittenberg will tease a collaborative, open-source big data infrastructure (Friday, 10.50-10.55, Atrium Ballroom A).

Of course, before implementing technical solutions, librarians must understand scholars’ practices and beliefs and help to convince them of the value of data stewardship. Graduate students are a key audience for outreach efforts, as Gesina Phillips, Rebekah Miller, and Cathryn Miller will discuss (Thursday, 9.40-10.10, room 26C). Make sure to also drop by Joanna Thielen’s and Amanda Nichols Hess’s poster on the same topic (Thursday, 3.00-3.45, poster 6).

What good is managing and preserving data if no one uses it in the future? Data sharing is another emerging area for library support. Danielle Cooper and I are excited to be speaking about “data communities” as an example of how scholar-centered analysis can help us rethink research support services (Saturday, 8.30-9, room 26B). We’re also looking forward to other sessions that focus on meeting scholars where they’re at when it comes to data sharing. Ali Krzton will speak about the mismatch between open scholarship initiatives and academic tenure and promotion incentives – and how librarians can advocate for change (Friday, 8.30-9.00, room 26C). And a poster by Hui Zhang and Llebot Clara will explain their new “Data Usage Wizard,” a tool to help students and researchers understand copyright for datasets (Friday, 3.00-3.45, poster 8).

Building Data Skills within Libraries

In addition to assisting scholars with research data management and sharing, librarians are already playing an important role in helping researchers embrace the potential of new, data-analysis-based methodologies. But a necessary first step is to help librarians themselves build confidence in these skills. A poster by Mandy Swygart-Hobaugh will describe one library’s voyage through these uncharted waters (Thursday, 9.00-9.45, poster 9), and another by Kate Barron will discuss ways to help librarians become more comfortable with big data topics (Friday, 1.00-1.45, poster 3).

For a deeper dive into data methodologies, check out Harriett Green and Eleanor Dickson Koehl’s report on a project to train librarians to use text mining within HathiTrust (Friday, 10.30-11.00, room 26C). Holly Hendrigan will speak about using Voyant text mining tools as a “gateway drug” to the digital humanities (Friday, 1.00-1.20, Atrium Ballroom B). And for those ready to get their hands dirty (figuratively speaking), Theresa Burress, Paige Morgan, Karen Hogenboom, Cynthia Levine, and Erin Pappas will lead a three-hour, hands-on workshop on collecting, organizing, and analyzing data (Friday, 1.00-4.00, Hilton Superior A).

Analog Datasets in a Digital World

A number of sessions and posters will describe projects that use digital tools to make unique physical information sources accessible. With many researchers still relying on handwritten field and lab notes — and with many such notes gathering dust in scientists’ basements — the session on preserving access to analog data by Shannon Farrell, Julie Kelly, and Kristen Mastel is timely (Thursday, 2.40-3.10, room 25C). Focusing on a different type of analogue data, Susan Powell’s poster will show how she used paper maps to build a GIS database of 20th century Mongolia (Friday, 10.30-11.15, poster 9).

We are also excited to visit not one, but TWO posters about herbaria — collections of plant specimens used to document new species discoveries. Complementary posters by M. Wynn Tranfield and by M. Wynn Tranfield and Julie Jones will discuss herbarium collections from a digital curation perspective (Thursday, 2.00-2.45, poster 10 and Friday, 3.00-3.45, poster 9, respectively). One of the reasons we’re interested in herbaria is that the researchers who use them are a great example of a “data community” that isn’t fundamentally digital — something we’ll discuss further in a forthcoming issue brief. Stay tuned!


We look forward to tracking (@rsspringer1, @dm_cooper) how these themes play out once the conference is underway, and we look forward to hearing others’ perspectives as well. What research-data-related presentations are you most interested in catching at ACRL 2019? What issues and opportunities are you paying attention to as academic libraries further explore opportunities for data support, analysis, and curation?