National Network of Libraries of Medicine
English Arabic Chinese (Simplified) French Hindi Japanese Korean Persian Portuguese Russian Spanish

Data Roadmap

Data Demystified: Getting Started with Data

At this first stop on the Data Roadmap you will learn about the why and what of data. Data is all around us and we can engage with data at different levels and in different contexts. Resources on this page will help you get started with data! ​Use the links below to get up to speed on the basic data terminology, and begin to explore data concepts. The resources below are organized by core skills identified for data science and open science librarians In April 2019 at the National Library of Medicine’s Office of Strategic Initiatives workshop.

New resources will be regularly posted. Email your questions and recommendations for data literacy and data management resources that could be included in the Roadmap and help to build and improve the Data Roadmap.


Data Skills

Before you can begin to find and use data, you have to understand the basic data terminology and data concepts. This introductory stop on the Data Roadmap will introduce you to basic topics and answer questions you may have about data. Are you interested in learning more about data-related topics? Reach out to some of data-related organizations, learn what they are about, and follow discussions and listserves in the data field. There are many free opportunities to learn more about data such as MOOC courses, blogs, products of IMLS grants and OERs.


Computational Skills

Working with digital data involves the intersection of technology tools and and information technology knowledge. Librarians are used to learning emerging technology and tools as part of their job, and we are in a good position to learn new tools so that we can share them with our stakeholders. Explore a few easy-to-use web-based tools and videos that can help you and your stakeholders gain confidence as they learn about data. Then get started by learning some data organizational skills.

  • DataBasic.io website: a great beginner website for 'playing with' web tools to work with data (4 different tools with tutorials, downloadable handout about the activities, and point and click options for working with data online). Explore counting words, comparing text files and making connection maps. Perfect for public library learning activities!
  • Voyant-Tools is an online open source text analyzer tool from McGill University. You can upload files for comparison and see the text in variety of formats such as word clouds and word frequency counts and see a variety of diagrams for visualizing the text.
  • A short cartoon video on Data Sharing and Management Snafu in 3 Short Acts by NYU Health Science Library (04:40) presents some of the challenges everyone needs to think about how when curating, archiving and sharing data.
  • On this Princeton University library guide you will learn about data naming conventions and be able to watch a short video by Software Carpentry on filing naming best practices for managing data
  • What file formats are best for archiving? The National Archives has a table of recommended and acceptable formats for many different types of files

Traditional Library Skills

In addition to data management, building on traditional library skills such as teaching and instruction, and evaluation and assessment will help you integrate data literacy and other data-related topics and tools into information literacy teaching. As librarians are increasingly assuming roles for teaching stakeholders about data and data management in both general public and academic libraries, as well as, and health science libraries the links below will help you reflect on those connections.


Skills for Developing Programs & Services

Data-related work can be integrated with general librarianship work involving planning and marketing services and outreach to stakeholders. Developing competencies in this area will help librarians research out to researchers, students and their user communities. Not everyone is a data librarian but knowing who to refer researchers to, or having materials to describe library support for data needs can help get the library services out in front of the library stakeholders. Librarians can help identify data repositories for researchers, manage data for both the library services and research around campus, and curate digital resources that include data.

  • One way to understand your stakeholders’ needs is through a needs assessment. Here is an example needs assessment on research graduate student researchers done at University of Wyoming and Northern Colorado University NNLM MCR webinar recording. (NNLM)
  • An RDAP review article, Ready, Engage! Outreach for Library Data Services provides some recommendations for outreach strategies. 
  • In an Ithaka S+R article, Scholars ARE Collectors: A Proposal for Re-thinking Research Support, read about how thinking about scholars and researchers as collectors, can help re-frame research support. 

Research & Subject Matter Knowledge

In addition to data skills and traditional library skills, data and open science librarians should work to acquire research and methods skills.

  • An Ithaka S+R article about using an evidence-based research approach for re-imagining services concepts and planning services. 
  • ​Dr. William Trochim's Research Methods Knowledgebase is a great place to explore the different types of research methods (qualitative and quantitative) as you think about developing research and subject matter knowledge (
  • The Statistics How-to website provides an easy to use basic site that divides statistical topics into dozens of easy chunked-out topics for you to explore.

Interpersonal Skills

Learning how to communicate and work with researchers is a value core skill for data and open science librarians.


Skills for Lifelong Learning

If librarians are to keep up with teh changing research landscape, it is important to keep up with the literature about data-related topics and research practices more generally.