May 21, 2022

New Journal Article: “Defining Data Librarianship: A Survey of Competencies, Skills, and Training”

The following article appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Medical Librarianship (Vol 106, No 3; 2018).


Defining Data Librarianship: A Survey of Competencies, Skills, and Training


Lisa Federer
NIH Library, National Institutes of Health


Journal of Medical Librarianship (JMLA)
Vol 106, No 3 (2018)
DOI: 10.5195/jmla.2018.306


Objectives: Many librarians are taking on new roles in research data services. However, the emerging field of data librarianship, including specific roles and competencies, has not been clearly established. This study aims to better define data librarianship by exploring the skills and knowledge that data librarians utilize and the training that they need to succeed.

Methods: Librarians who do data-related work were surveyed about their work and educational backgrounds and asked to rate the relevance of a set of data-related skills and knowledge to their work.

Results: Respondents considered a broad range of skills and knowledge important to their work, especially “soft skills” and personal characteristics, like communication skills and the ability to develop relationships with researchers. Traditional library skills like cataloging and collection development were considered less important. A cluster analysis of the responses revealed two types of data librarians: data generalists, who tend to provide data services across a variety of fields, and subject specialists, who tend to provide more specialized services to a distinct discipline.

Discussion: The findings of this study suggest that data librarians provide a broad range of services to their users and, therefore, need a variety of skills and expertise. Libraries hiring a data librarian may wish to consider whether their communities will be best served by a data generalist or a subject specialist and write their job postings accordingly. These findings also have implications for library schools, which could consider adjusting their curricula to better prepare their students for data librarian roles.

Direct to Full Text Article ||| PDF Version (10 pages)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.