What is a Databrarian?

The term “databrarian” is a portmanteau coinage formed out of “data” and “librarian.” As a term it dates to a 2013 Library Journal article that discussed the results of the Placements & Salaries survey and noted “several new job titles,” including Research Data Librarian, Data Coordinator, and Data Curation Specialist. While practitioners welcomed the belated recognition, data librarianship as a field is hardly new, and the key functions the article noted have all been practiced for years under such admittedly less trendy job titles as Government Documents Librarian, Data Specialist, and (yes) Data Librarian.

Academic data librarianship is not a single specialty but rather a varied collection of overlapping but distinct roles that center on providing access to, documenting, and preserving data, much as traditional librarianship centered on doing the same for print resources. Most databrarians will share certain base skill sets, having knowledge of file formats, documentation and metadata standards, and disciplinary research practices, but beyond that, their jobs can take a myriad of forms.

Underlying much of our book is the idea that data librarianship is a collaborative endeavor across our libraries and our universities.  The needs of data patrons are diverse, as are the skill sets required to assist them. As editors, our motivation with this collection is to demonstrate the wide breadth of data librarianship and all of the component positions. From data discovery to data instruction techniques to data curation and metadata knowledge, databrarianship is a broad field with a world of opportunity for collaboration and innovation.