Harnessing the Data Deluge: Introduction
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Business resources and business research have been data-oriented for more than a century. Business information has moved from Poor’s Railroad Manual of the United States to the observation and data collection at the heart of Frederick Winslow Taylor’s scientific management to machine-readable data sources to recent advances in Big Data and artificial intelligence. At each step in that evolution, new challenges have arisen related to providing access to data and preserving it for future generations of business researchers. While technology has liberated data to be used in new and interesting ways, twenty-first century business librarians may feel they are in a Coleridgean situation of “Data, data, everywhere, nor any skills to analyze.” The glut of data comes not only from our vendors, but also from our interactions with users through our collections and services, ranging from usage reporting to user surveys to assessment data on student success. Business librarians’ roles continue to evolve as we develop new skills and systems to create, compile and manage the data that is critical to the business research process.
The data deluge theme for the 2018 Academic Business Library Directors (ABLD) annual conference at the University of Washington was broadly conceived to include all aspects of data acquisition, coding, curation, manipulation and services. It also encompassed working with internal or institutional data about library services and resources which ABLD members had used to impact decision-making and effectively tell the story of their libraries’ value to stakeholders. The articles in this issue of Ticker expand on several of the presentations from the conference and address different elements of the theme using a case study approach. This inaugural thematic issue is also the first Ticker issue to be hosted on the journal’s new platform.
In their review of trends impacting ABLD member libraries, Sylka, Diaz, and Plummer find that data is a significant driver, from complex issues relating to the inventory and acquisition of data sets to the need for data-driven decision making. Splenda focuses on the challenges related to identifying data needs and matching data sources to those needs, given budget constraints and vendor access models. He looks specifically at venture capital and private equity data to support teaching, research and entrepreneurial efforts at Carnegie Mellon University, with an emphasis on building support for programming, resource use and financing across campus communities. Hemment and McNeill provide an overview of the ambitious Research Data Program (RDP) at Harvard Business School’s Baker Library. The RDP is a multi-pronged initiative to provide support, infrastructure and services from data discovery to preservation and all points in between. Their Research Datasets Tool, developed in close collaboration with faculty and other stakeholders, brings together all relevant information around each dataset/data source, moving past the basics like subject description and coverage years to include license information, manuals and codebooks, file types and related research.
Lohisse reports on data collected through an online survey of faculty members and PhD students at the Université Paris-Dauphine, homing in on user perceptions and practices around research data, metrics and open access. The results revealed many opportunities for the library to develop programs and services in these areas. Bizmania’s article about fundamental and foundational change at the HEC Montréal Library brings together many of the conference themes. He writes about the “existential challenge” faced by the library in changing its structure and approach to focus on research data and knowledge management. He describes an extensive process of needs assessment and information gathering from faculty and students to inform the changes, and outlines the challenges ahead in implementing the new model, from staff development to space planning.
Rather than approaching the data deluge from the perspective of the little Dutch boy with a finger on the dike, the articles in this issue provide inspiration for actively managing its elements.