The Next Frontier: Federal Librarians and Data – Information Today


Data is a mainstream topic for librarians today. The term “Big Data” is popular at conferences, and academic libraries are increasingly taking a role in managing data produced by researchers. The challenges and opportunities of managing data are impacting librarians in the U.S. federal government. In all kinds of government agencies, librarians are taking on roles that support both researchers within their agencies and public users of the data that the agencies create.

The U.S. federal government has been preparing for these new roles. In 2011, the Library of Congress’ Federal Library and Information Center Committee (FLICC) released an updated document on competencies for federal librarians that addresses data. “FLICC Competencies for Federal Librarians” defines the knowledge, skills, and abilities federal librarians need to possess. The document is used to develop job descriptions, train employees, and align the librarian’s role with an agency’s strategic goals. It encourages the development of skills to “interpret, explain, and apply standards for data collection, management, curation, and accessibility.” It also encourages applying those skills in evaluating data management plans.

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Richard Huffine is a former federal librarian with 15 years of experience managing library services for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey). Currently, he is a senior director at ProQuest, where he is responsible for developing strategies for its U.S. federal government business. He is a frequent speaker at library conferences and an engaged leader and active voice for government librarians in both the American Library Association (ALA) and the Special Libraries Association (SLA).