The Role of a Digital Curation Librarian: Managing and Preserving Digital Resources
What Does a Digital Curation Librarian Do?
Digital curation is a library science field that helps ensure usable data at each stage of the information lifecycle. It can be applied to anything that’s in digital format, from photos and videos to research data and presentations.
More and more library and information science (LIS) master’s programs are offering concentrations, specializations and career pathways in this area. A recent analysis of job ads identified competencies that are sought by employers in this discipline.
Digital curation involves the active management of digital resources throughout their life-cycle. Whether a digital resource is born-digital or is a digital surrogate of an analog collection, digital curation encompasses image processing, metadata capture, derivative creation and preservation for long term access. Developing well-formulated digital curation workflows and procedures will ensure the successful implementation of these tools within an organisation.
As much of the information generated and knowledge created is in digital form, the library industry has found it necessary to develop innovative ways to preserve these assets for present and future generations. The process is known as digital curation, which is becoming a new trend for libraries.
Managing large digital collections can be challenging and time consuming. To improve efficiency and accuracy, digital curation workflows should include mechanisms for pre-ingest metadata normalization and file quality control. Scripting utilities such as AutoHotkey and Selenium IDE can also improve productivity by automating repetitive tasks such as renaming files.
Generally, a digital curation librarian handles the creation, organization and preservation of digitized materials. This can include images, video files, research data, presentations and other scholarly content.
These digital assets may be derived from a wide range of sources. A significant amount of the work done by a digital curation librarian involves identifying and evaluating these materials, selecting those that are best suited for long-term preservation, then creating and storing them in a secure repository.
It is becoming increasingly recognized that for research teams to maximise the impact of their results, and inspire confidence in the research councils and funding bodies who support their activities, they must put effective data preservation initiatives in place. SILS faculty are recognized experts in information retrieval and organisation, text data mining, task-based search and large-scale digital repository management. These skills are a crucial part of the education offered by our digital curation courses. This includes developing the necessary skills for a range of stakeholders involved in digital preservation and curation, including:
The ability to preserve digital research data is a vital skill for both academics and institutions. This is recognised as best practice and, in many cases, is required by funding bodies and researchers themselves.
It is a challenge for any institution to cope with the huge amount of information generated and published in the form of digital materials. It is estimated that 1.57GB of data is published on the internet every minute (Rosenbaum 2011).
As a new and developing field, it is difficult to estimate the current demand for digital curation librarians. However, knowledge of the skills, abilities and competencies that are essential to digital curation functions can help in planning training and education programmes. For example, one of the digital curation functions identified in job advertisements is the creation of comprehensive metadata that supports long-term preservation. This is a task that may be ripe for automation, given the volumes of data involved and the potential time cost of manual creation.
As the needs for digital curation professionals emerge, a range of training programs are developing. These include formal graduate-level education, interdisciplinary programs that offer a combination of librarianship and a discipline such as history or biology, and supplemental courses inserted into existing curricula.
An educational background in science or mathematics, enhanced by a disciplinary focus and a strong understanding of the specific research domain are important for those who will work with the diverse and complex data and information produced by researchers. Skills that are often considered “soft” are also needed, such as being able to understand the perspectives of those who work in a variety of disciplines and to negotiate solutions that may involve competing priorities.
A significant number of job ads indicate that project management skills are in high demand. This is consistent with the finding of Tibbo, Hank, and Lee (2008) that project-management capabilities are considered an essential competency for digital curation jobs.