Vol 34 | No 2 | Spring 16
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Libraries Exploring Data Literacy Center

ImageLibraries have always been about data, but trends in academic libraries as well as the research landscape make data more important, more available, and more malleable than ever before. With this in mind, the UCI Libraries are exploring the potential to develop enhanced Data Literacy programs and services.

Many of our readers may remember writing papers on typewriters or early word processors, where making graphical representations of information was too complicated, difficult, and expensive for most students and scholars. Today, however, there are a lot of tools, many free, that allow even beginning undergraduates to access and represent business and financial data, health data and census and other government information in complex graphical ways. Increasingly, papers written in first-year English composition now require a "multi-modal" component, and students routinely represent their research in glossy posters. Students and faculty alike, however, can benefit from guidance and support in accessing and representing information effectively. Students need advice about citing data, for example, and they may need help locating the best tools for the information they seek.

To make taxpayer-funded research more widely available and to help advance research and new discoveries---scholars conducting sponsored research are required by grant funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, to deposit their research data in open repositories. And journal publishers are increasingly providing free access to research data cited in scholarly articles. The UCI Libraries are uniquely situated to provide counsel, training, and support in this area.

The Libraries' potential Data Literacy services might include one-on-one consultations by appointment, training workshops for classes and research groups, and drop-in hours for statistical, geospatial and data-discovery and data-representation related questions. These services would be provided by librarians, professional staff and student interns. As one concrete example, the Libraries plan to purchase a large-format printer to support the printing of research posters for a fee, and librarians will be on hand to provide expert advice about scholarly attribution and visual communication.

While exploring options for these services, librarians are attending workshops on the topic sponsored by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), and are planning similar trainings for our own librarians and staff. We are exploring the implications of staffing and supporting such a service, and will be consulting with faculty and other stakeholders in the near future.

In the meantime, want to explore some of the free tools available to academics and laypeople? Check out Data USA for visualizations of U.S. Public Data, or Social Explorer (free introductory descriptions of the product are available, and authorized UCI users may login here) for 220 years of U.S. demographic data. Orange County's Healthier Together provides information about local health data. For more complex data there is Open Refine (formerly Google Refine) that provides tools for researchers to locate, clean and re-purpose data sets.

For more information, please contact Alison Regan, Assistant University Librarian for Public Services at aeregan@uci.edu or x49753.