Working as a Data Librarian

A Practical Guide

by Eric O. Johnson


An accessible and thorough introduction to data librarianship.

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November 2018

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 245
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Research Methods, Statistics, and Data/Data Analytics
  Organization of Information and Knowledge Management/Metadata

Many librarians' job responsibilities increasingly require them to understand and handle data. Learn how to be an effective data librarian—even if you never expected to need data skills.

The field of data librarianship is rapidly growing, and some librarians may feel that their training and experience does not cover data questions asked by patrons seeking advice. With this gentle guide for librarians moving—sometimes unexpectedly—into the world of data librarianship, all you need is a willingness to learn the skills required for the rapidly growing number of jobs requiring data librarianship.

Working as a Data Librarian focuses on transferable skills and understanding and does not assume extensive knowledge. It introduces tasks and concepts needed to be an effective data librarian, such as best practices for data reference interviewing, finding data sources, data visualization, data literacy, the data lifecycle, metadata design, database design, understanding data management, and preparing data management plans.

Additional sections focus on supporting creativity (Makerspaces and Fablabs, 3-D modeling), supporting analysis (GIS, data visualization, text mining, statistical methods), supporting research (digital scholarship, digital preservation, institutional data repositories, scholarly communication), and outreach (data librarian liaisonship, hackathons, developing outreach programs).


  • Acquaints readers with the fast-growing field of data librarianship
  • Teaches librarians the fundamental skills needed to be a data librarian
  • Offers best practices for data reference interviewing, finding data sources, data visualization, data literacy, the data lifecycle, metadata design, database design, understanding data management, and preparing data management plans
  • Helps librarians to support creativity and research and to run outreach programs
Author Info

Eric O. Johnson is the numeric and spatial data librarian in the Create and Innovate Digital Scholarship Center at Miami University, Oxford, OH. He helps faculty to connect people to their research with digital methods and teaches online data literacy courses to library science students. His background spans from the hard science of engineering to the supportive fields of social services and librarianship. He has published papers on helping patrons to find resources, data collection and validation, and digital preservation; has given presentations on data rescue, digital scholarship, and database design; and has been practicing data librarianship for nearly a decade.



"A fantastic introduction to the strategies and tools used by data librarians!"The Galecia Group


"This book is a great guide for how to understand how a new type of librarian, the data librarian, fits into the bigger library picture. Eric O. Johnson pulls back the cover to show us the detailed mechanics of data librarianship and working with data. From the administrator who needs to write an effective job description to hire a data librarian, to subject librarians who find themselves trying to address data issues for their research community, to the student who wants to know more about this exciting new field, this book covers it all."—Amy Koshoffer, Science Informationist, University of Cincinnati

"Johnson's Working as a Data Librarian is a must read for MLIS students, established librarians looking to update their skill set, and library administrators who want their libraries to remain relevant in the ever-changing world of academia. Johnson breaks down the complex issues revolving around data librarianship into concise and easy-to-understand chapters. This resource would have been immensely helpful when I started out as an institutional repository manager."—Jane S. Wildermuth, Head, Digital Initiatives and Repository Services, Wright State University

Look Inside

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