Dialogues for reference librarians referring to data services

These skits, or dialogues, were developed by a team of data librarians at UC Berkeley for training our colleagues. The goal is to help librarians visualize when and how they might ask questions during a reference interview, and to refer potential data needs to the research data management services in a way that feels smooth and comfortable. Feel free to adapt and re-use with attribution to the authors, Jamie Wittenberg, Anna Sackmann, and Celia Emmelhainz (CC-BY)! 


Dialogue 1. Software as an entry point for the library’s data services

Celia [as student]: Can you help me learn how to use Tableau on my computer?

Jamie [as librarian]: We don’t usually teach software skills in the library. But what type of project will you be using it for?

Celia: Well, I’m doing some research for my master’s thesis, and I’ve got data on librarian jobs and salaries after the MLIS.

Jamie: Oh, I see – is this data that you have collected yourself, or are you using existing data?

Celia: I gathered it myself.

Jamie: Okay, great, you shouldn’t encounter any licensing problems then. Can you tell me more about where your data live, and what you’re trying to do?

Celia: It’s on my laptop, I’m trying to create an infographic for a poster.

Jamie: Okay, it sounds like you need some help preparing your data for analysis. I am going to reach out to someone who can help you with this. They can also help you set up automated back up to the cloud, so that you won’t lose all your data if something happens to your laptop.

Discussion for model one:

Software requests at any point in the research lifecycle (such as managing references in Zotero, analysis tools, or visualization tools) can be a trigger point to ask about the research project and if they’ve thought about managing their data yet. If they’ll be collecting original data, refer them to the RDM guide or our RDM librarian for more.



Dialogue 2. The lit review as an entry point for the library’s data services

Celia [as student]: I’m doing a lit review and I’m wondering if you could help?

Anna [as librarian]: Sure! Tell me a bit about your project.

Celia: Well, I have this project on where people go after library school, and I’m wondering if you have any articles on retention within the field like 3-5 years after—especially if they don’t have a library job.

Anna: That sounds like very interesting research. Let’s spend some time figuring out our keywords, databases, and a date range to further define your research scope. We can also talk about using citation management software to keep all of your resources organized. Do you have specific ideas on geographic area, type of librarianship, or any other factors?

Celia: Well, I’d really like to do a big survey using an ALA listserv and get a broad range of responses.

Anna: Great – so while we’re focusing on the literature review and how to set up your survey research, this is also an important time to talk about planning for the whole life-cycle of your research. It sounds like you’re going to be working with a lot of data that might have personal information which needs managed.

Celia: Yeah, depending on the number of people who respond, I could end up with a lot of responses.

Anna: Well, let’s look at what materials are out there, and then I’ll connect you with our Research Data Management experts to talk about how you might plan for your data.

Discussion for model two:

Faculty and students often come to us as they’re struggling with a literature review prior to, during, or after data collection. When you offer help mining the literature or managing their citations, you might also offer the library’s resources on setting up and managing data in their research project as well. 



Dialogue 3. Resource requests as an entry point for the library’s data services

Celia [as student]: Do you have a book on salaries for librarians?

Rick [as librarian]: We probably have something like that. What are you looking for?

Celia: Well, I did this survey of how much people make after library school, and I want to check it against the literature.

Rick: I’m happy to help you find resources on salaries for librarians. Are you planning to share or publish the data from your survey?

Celia: Share my data? I’m not sure if that’s safe. Why would I do that?

Rick: There are a number of reasons, including getting publication credit or fulfilling grant requirements. We’ll find you information on library salaries now, but I’ll also connect you to our librarians in Research Data Management consultant. They can help you handling your data in way that lets you preserve it for the long term–and consider your options for careful sharing. Other librarians may be interested not only in your study, but in the data, too!

Discussion for model three:

Even requests for specific resources can lead you to ask about a project and how they’re handling data for that project. Asking if they’re planning to share or publish the data may be a great lead-in for any student, grad student, or faculty member who is doing original data collection.

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