liaison can make other similar data sets available and known to local
researchers for reuse and new discoveries. This role builds naturally on the
collection building and searching experience librarians already have with
traditional information resources.
• Standards for data preservation: Behind the scenes, liaisons can work with
domain experts to create preservation models for data and can document
data needs to help work towards metadata and data standards.
Given the current state of liaison roles and responsibilities it might seem
that these roles are too big a stretch for librarians to develop, but they do build
upon a rich tradition of current practices that can ensure the success of liaisons
in extending their reach into engineering and science data curation:
• Liaisons know their disciplinary communities, their information practices,
and understand a community’s data needs and can help shape the services
that will meet them.
• Liaisons are experienced in negotiating and coordinating between many
organizations, internal and external to the libraries, to coordinate delivery
of excellent services to users.
• Liaisons have a long track record of building bridges with others in similar
roles at other institutions in order to bring best practices into local practice.
• Liaisons are experienced in selection and appraisal for collection building
and can extend that knowledge to helping researchers ask the right
questions for possible long-term reuse of their data.
• Liaisons are experienced in helping researchers find difficult-to-locate
• Many liaisons have domain-specific advanced degrees and experience and
can readily add knowledge of data management practices unique to their
Despite a rich tradition of practices and the outstanding opportunities that
lie ahead, it is clear that incorporating engineering and science data services
into a library’s service portfolio requires certain skills in individuals who want
to fulfill the role of a “data liaison.” Engineering and science data is often
heterogeneous: data sets are created to fulfill a unique need. The highly self-
motivated liaisons who want to work in this realm will need to have very
strong analytical, project management, and problem solving skills, as well as
The Last Mile: Liaison Roles in Curating Science and Engineering Research Data
C O N T I N U E D
AUGUST 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC