Data Literacy in Academic Libraries: Teaching Critical Thinking with Numbers

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The strategies and initiatives detailed in this book will empower data librarians, information literacy instructors, library liaisons, and reference staff to successfully incorporate data literacy into their work.

We live in a data-driven world, much of it processed and served up by increasingly complex algorithms, and evaluating its quality requires its own skillset. As a component of information literacy, it's crucial that students learn how to think critically about statistics, data, and related visualizations. Here, Bauder and her fellow contributors show how librarians are helping students to access, interpret, critically assess, manage, handle, and ethically use data. Offering readers a roadmap for effectively teaching data literacy at the undergraduate level, this volume explores such topics as

  • the potential for large-scale library/faculty partnerships to incorporate data literacy instruction across the undergraduate curriculum;
  • how the principles of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education can help to situate data literacy within a broader information literacy context;
  • a report on the expectations of classroom faculty concerning their students’ data literacy skills;
  • various ways that librarians can partner with faculty;
  • case studies of two initiatives spearheaded by Purdue University Libraries and University of Houston Libraries that support faculty as they integrate more work with data into their courses;
  • Barnard College’s Empirical Reasoning Center, which provides workshops and walk-in consultations to more than a thousand students annually;
  • how a one-shot session using the PolicyMap data mapping tool can be used to teach students from many different disciplines;
  • diving into quantitative data to determine the truth or falsity of potential “fake news” claims; and
  • a for-credit, librarian-taught course on information dissemination and the ethical use of information.


Chapter 1    Data Literacy in Undergraduate Education: Faculty Perspectives and Pedagogical Approaches
Theresa Burress, Emily Z. Mann, Susan E. Montgomery, and Rachel Walton

Chapter 2    Building Undergraduate Data Literacy through Faculty Development
Clarence Maybee, Guang Lin, Wei Zakharov, Chao Cai, Jason FitzSimmons, and Yixuan Sun

Chapter 3    Beyond the Numbers: Building a Data Information Literacy Program for Undergraduate Instruction
Veronica Arellano Douglas, Wenli Gao, Emma Fontenot, and Andrea Malone

Chapter 4    The Barnard College Empirical Reasoning Center: A Case Study in Developing a Service Model for Teaching Data Literacy across Disciplines
Alisa B. Rod, David F. Weiman, Fatima Koli, Anna Carlson, and Jennifer A. Green

Chapter 5     Making the Most of a Data One-Shot with Mapping: Multidisciplinary Data and Spatial Literacy
Kathryn M. Wissel

Chapter 6    A Data Discovery Project: Seeking Truth in a Post-Truth World
Allison Brungard and Langdon Smith

Chapter 7    More Data, Less Dewey: Modernizing a For-Credit Library Course to Support Data and Algorithmic Literacy for Undergraduates
Elizabeth Blackwood and Debra Hoffmann

Chapter 8    Data Literacy for Entrepreneurs: Exploring the Integration of Pedagogy, Practice, and Research at MIT
Nicholas Albaugh, Elizabeth Soergel, and Micah Altman

Chapter 9    Data Literacy and the Framework for Information Literacy
Julia Bauder

About the Contributors 

Julia Bauder

Julia Bauder is the Social Studies and Data Services Librarian at the Grinnell College Libraries. She has written or edited several books, including The Reference Guide to Data SourcesData Literacy in Academic Libraries: Teaching Critical Thinking with Numbers, and Teaching Research Data Management. She has also published and presented about information literacy, data literacy, and data visualization in venues including Information Technology and Libraries, College & Undergraduate Libraries, and the LITA National Forum.

"Librarians have been teaching data literacy skills instruction for decades, but Bauder has found a way to curate relevant works on the topic in this book. In 2022, data literacy instruction has gone wild ... This text provides a variety of resources related to undergraduate data needs, from one-shot instruction examples to curriculum mapping to ideas on engaging faculty in learning to teach these skills. Assessment and data librarians, other disciplines of academic librarians, library administrators, and managers of service centers will find something useful in this book, whether data-related or not."
— Technical Services Quarterly

"Bauder and her fellow contributors provide an excellent overview of building data literacy skills within an academic library context. Covering significant ground, and viewing the term ‘data’ through multiple lenses, those new to data literacy could be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed by the book’s scope. However, Bauder’s collected chapters take the reader on a journey gentle enough for a beginner to confidently grasp data literacy theory, while offering plenty of practical case studies for those more seasoned to repurpose for their own audiences."
— Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association