It Takes a Researcher to Know a Researcher: Academic Librarian Perspectives Regarding Skills and Training for Research Data Support in Canada
Objective – This empirical study aims to contribute qualitative evidence on the perspectives of data-related librarians regarding the necessary skills, education, and training for these roles in the context of Canadian academic libraries. A second aim of this study is to understand the perspectives of data-related librarians regarding the specific role of the MLIS in providing relevant training and education. The definition of a data-related librarian in this study includes any librarian or professional who has a conventional title related to a field of data librarianship (i.e., research data management, data services, GIS, data visualization, data science) or any other librarian or professional whose duties include providing data-related services within an academic institution.
Methods – This study incorporates in-depth qualitative empirical evidence in the form of 12 semi-structured interviews of data-related librarians to investigate first-hand perspectives on the necessary skills required for such positions and the mechanisms for acquiring and maintaining such skills.
Results – The interviews identified four major themes related to the skills required for library-related data services positions, including the perceived importance of experience conducting original research, proficiency in computational coding and quantitative methods, MLIS-related skills such as understanding metadata, and the ability to learn new skills quickly on the job. Overall, the implication of this study regarding the training from MLIS programs concerning data-related librarianship is that although expertise in metadata, documentation, and information management are vital skills for data-related librarians, the MLIS is increasingly less competitive compared with degree programs that offer a greater emphasis on practical experience working with different types of data in a research context and implementing a variety of methodological approaches.
Conclusion – This study demonstrates that an in-depth qualitative portrait of data-related librarians within a national academic ecosystem provides valuable new insights regarding the perceived importance of conducting original empirical research to succeed in these roles.
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