Subject Specialists are librarians who focus on specific topics. They have a robust knowledge of library resources and are happy to assist with research and answer questions, large and small!
Today we’re interviewing Jenn Huck, who is a Data Librarian.
- Data Discovery
- Data Science
- Public Policy
What are some of the specific ways you can help people learning and working in your subject specialty area(s)?
- Finding or accessing data and statistics for their research project, focusing mostly on the social sciences;
- Finding local news that will help inform a study about a specific geographic area;
- Finding, using, and citing gray literature to bolster public policy studies, as well as federal and state government documents.
What’s a key message you’d like people to know?
Undergrads, did you know that there are people in the library that will help you find and use the best materials you need to write impressive research papers? Also, we don’t grade you, so we hold no judgement. We just want to see you succeed!
We have a wide variety of skills in the library. The team I work on has expertise in data discovery, data management, GIS, statistics, Python, research software support, data wrangling, analysis, and visualization, plus several of us have advanced degrees in the disciplines we support. I think people are often surprised to hear about the depth of expertise we have here in the library. And it seriously makes our day when we get to share our expertise in such a way that it helps someone else succeed.
If someone comes to you for help, what does that look like?
If I’m working with a Batten student, I almost always meet once, one-on-one. It gives me a chance to hear about their project, and I can show them the library resources that are most suitable for their research. This usually takes half an hour.
If I have a data request, I’ll either meet in person, or I’ll take requests via email, to get a sense of what they are looking for. Then I typically use my tried-and-true data discovery techniques on my own to see what I can find, then I report back with a detailed email.
What are some research challenges you enjoy?
I LOVE getting a good data request. These often take me several hours to sort through. I think it gives me a chance to flex some traditional librarian skills, but in a data context. There is no single database for finding data, so it’s a good challenge. Like many librarians, I’m a dog with a bone in this context.
What’s something interesting you’ve found in the course of your work in this subject area?
ICPSR (“Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research”) is a data archive of over 250,000 social and behavioral datasets. The best thing about ICPSR is that the datasets are well curated and documented—no more wondering that that variable actually represents. They also offer a very well-regarded summer program in quantitative methods in social research.
What’s a recent book that you’d recommend?
R for Data Science. I’m trying to learn more about R; right now, I’m mostly focusing on data wrangling and research project workflow best practices. R4DS offers a clear introduction to using R for wrangling, visualizing, and modeling data.
What’s a place or an activity you enjoy in Charlottesville?
I have two small children, so we love taking advantage of the city splash pads and public libraries.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I like hearing about other people’s projects—I get to learn something alongside the researcher. This job gives me a lot of opportunity to learn new content and skills.
Is there anything else you’d want people to know about you?
Extending on my personal theme of lifelong learning, I’m currently learning to sew. I have never done it before this year, but I’m loving making garments, reading about sewing techniques, and watching endless sewing instruction videos.