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Data Librarianship at MLA | SLA '23

My institution, like many others, has spent much of the last year preparing for and then responding to the 2023 NIH Data Management and Sharing Policy that went live this January. While not a data librarian by training (who is?), I took up the challenge and became the de facto data librarian at my institution through a dedicated focus on professional development and a willingness to learn. As I am still new to data librarianship, I figured MLA|SLA 2023 would be a perfect opportunity to learn more about the data services, the NIH policy, and how other librarians and institutions are managing the whole thing. Luckily, the offerings at this year’s conference did not disappoint.

I was able to kick off my conference experience on Wednesday (after the fabulous Leiter Lecture) with an immersion session on education and outreach for the NIH DMS Policy. Between the whirlwind tour of other institutions’ approaches and the opportunity for small group discussion, I left that session with a notebook full of ideas for how I could refine and expand services at my own institution. Perhaps most of all, having the opportunity to talk to other librarians, many of whom fell into data librarianship as accidentally as I did, helped me to realize how many of us are sharing the same concerns and challenges, and left me feeling more confident in my own role.

Later that same afternoon I attended a whole series of paper presentations on data services and data management. This series of papers was a fabulous opportunity to quickly digest a whole host of unique service offerings and research related to data librarianship. A quick series of paper presentations, rather than one long immersion session, was a perfect complement to the morning’s immersion session as it allowed me to see a wide range of approaches to data and learn from others' research. Just like with the immersion session, I left that conference room with a notebook full of ideas that I can look forward to refining and implementing.

On Thursday, my conference deep dive into the NIH policy continued with the second of two immersion sessions focused on the NIH DMS Policy, this time centered on infrastructure. Being able to learn about so many different service models for approaching the policy was enlightening and left me once again excited by the possibilities.

Participating in many related conference sessions was beneficial in its own way as well. Having multiple ideas related to data librarianship in my head at once allowed me to connect the sessions and see the wider patterns, giving me a greater appreciation for the scope of what data librarianship is and can be at medical libraries, and leaving me a more informed librarian ready to respond as the results from the first round of NIH applications post-policy change start to come in.

While I was also able to attend many sessions on non-data-related topics, focusing my conference time on a particular topic was a great way to keep myself engaged, make new connections with similar issues, and help turn my conference learning into action.

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