The Data Librarian's Handbook

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  • Description
  • Table of Contents
  • About the authors
  • Reviews


Interest in data has been growing in recent years. Support for this peculiar class of digital information – its use, preservation and curation, and how to support researchers' production and consumption of it in ever greater volumes to create new knowledge, is needed more than ever.  Many librarians and information professionals are finding their working life is pulling them toward data support or research data management but lack the skills required.

The Data Librarian's Handbook, written by two data librarians with over 30 years' combined experience, unpicks the everyday role of the data librarian and offers practical guidance on how to collect, curate and crunch data for economic, social and scientific purposes.

With contemporary case studies from a range of institutions and disciplines, tips for best practice, study aids and links to key resources, this book is a must-read for all new entrants to the field, library and information students and working professionals. Key topics covered include:


  • the evolution of data libraries and data archives;
  • handling data compared to other forms of information;
  • managing and curating data to ensure effective use and longevity;
  • how to incorporate data literacy into mainstream library instruction and information literacy training;
  • how to develop an effective institutional research data management (RDM) policy and infrastructure;
  • how to support and review a data management plan (DMP) for a project, a key requirement for most research funders;
  • approaches for developing, managing and promoting data repositories;
  • handling and sharing confidential or sensitive data; and
  • supporting open scholarship and open science, ensuring data are discoverable, accessible, intelligible and assessable.

This title is for the practicing data librarian, possibly new in their post with little experience of providing data support. It is also for managers and policy-makers, public service librarians, research data management coordinators and data support staff. It will also appeal to students and lecturers in iSchools and other library and information degree programs where academic research support is taught.



1. Data librarianship: responding to research innovation

  • The rise of data librarians
  • Addressing early demand for data services
  • The growth of data collections
  • The origins of data libraries
  • A new map of support for services and researchers

2. What is different about data?

  • Attitudes and pre-conceptions
  • Is there a difference if data are created or re-used?
  • Data and intellectual property rights
  • The relationship of metadata to data
  • Big data
  • Long tail data
  • The need for data citation
  • Embracing and advocating data curation

3. Supporting data literacy

  • Information literacy with data awareness
  • Categories of data
  • Top tips for the reference interview
  • What has statistical literacy got to do with it?
  • Data journalism and data visualization
  • Topics in research data management
  • Training in data handling

4. Building a data collection

  • Policy and data
  • Promoting and sustaining use of a collection
  • Embedding data within the library

5. Research data management service and policy: working across your institution

  • Librarians and RDM
  • Why does an institution need an RDM policy?
  • What comprises a good RDM policy?
  • Tips for getting an RDM policy passed
  • Toolkits for measuring institutional preparedness for RDM
  • Planning RDM services: what do they look like?
  • Edinburgh University's RDM Roadmap
  • Evaluation and benchmarking
  • What is the library's role?

6. Data management plans as a calling card

  • Leading by example: eight vignettes
  • Social Science research at the London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Clinical medical research at the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine
  • Archaeological research at the University of California, Los Angeles
  • Geological research at the University of Oregon
  • Medical and veterinary research at the University of Glasgow
  • Astronomical research at Columbia University
  • Engineering research at the University of Guelph
  • Health-related social science research at the University of Bath
  • Responding to challenges in data support
  • The snowball effect of data management plans

7. Essentials of data repositories

  • Repository versus archive?
  • Put, get, search: what is a repository?
  • Scoping your data repository
  • Choosing a metadata schema
  • Converging on a standard: DataCite metadata and digital object identifiers
  • Managing access
  • Data quality review (or be kind to your end-users)
  • Digital preservation planning across space and time
  • Trusted digital repositories
  • The need for interoperability

8. Dealing with sensitive data

  • Challenging assumptions about data
  • Understanding how researchers view their research
  • Sensitivity and confidentiality – a general or specific problem?
  • A role in giving advice on consent agreements
  • Storing and preserving confidential data effectively

9. Data sharing in the disciplines

  • Culture change in academia

10. Supporting open scholarship and open science

  • Going green: impact of the open access movement
  • Free software, open data and data licences
  • Big data as a new paradigm?
  • Data as first-class research objects
  • Reproducibility in science
  • Do libraries need a reboot?



Robin Rice

Robin Rice is Data Librarian at EDINA and Data Library, an organization providing data services for research and education based in Information Services at the University of Edinburgh, UK.

John Southall

John Southall is Data Librarian for the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford, UK. He is based in the Social Science Library and is subject consultant for Economics, Sociology and Social Policy and Intervention.

"Highly recommended for anyone just getting started in working with data."
— Library Journal (starred review)

”Essential for any information professional interested in data and their management, and also indicative of the increasing role that data and data management play in libraries and across academia."
— LSE Review of Books

"The authors provide several case studies showing how librarians have been able to participate in the creation of grant mandated data management plans and, by doing so, establish close links and increase their credibility with researchers...the challenge for librarians – which the insights in this book very usefully address – is to be able to adapt their support to continuing new developments in the whole research lifecycle."
— K & IM Refer

"Unreservedly recommended as a core addition to community, governmental, and academic Library Science collections and supplemental studies reading lists."
— Midwest Book Review