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Harvard Library Offers Data Scientist Training

Three-month course teaches librarians to use technology for data management.

 
Students in a data scientist training course at the Wolbach Library.

September 17, 2013—This semester, the Harvard Library is holding the second data scientist training course for librarians. Christopher Erdmann, head librarian of the John G. Wolbach Library of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, organized the course so that library staff can upgrade their skills and learn new tools for data management.

“The main objectives of the course are for participants to learn to extract, analyze and present data using the most-up-to-date techniques,” Erdmann said. “I believe that our staff should have the same skills as the scientists and researchers who patronize their libraries, so they can understand their data needs better and build services that respond better to their needs.”

There are currently 45 participants registered for the course, which meets once per week and was funded through an Arcadia Fund grant. About 60 percent are Harvard Library staff. The instructors—Tom Morris, Rahul Dave, Lynn Cherny and members of Software Carpentry—focus on teaching, command-line interface, Git, OpenRefine, Excel, Python and R. 

In addition to Erdmann, the primary course organizers are Scott Wicks, head of Information and Technical Services; Michelle Durocher, head of metadata management; Colin Van Alstine, library assistant; and Christine Eslao, technical services librarian.

Katie Frey and Louise Rubin, library technicians at Wolbach, both took the course when it was first offered in the spring of 2013 and are now helping to coordinate its second installment. “I think it’s important to be exposed to different technologies and see how new applications are being used,” Frey said.

Rubin added, “This helps staff gain knowledge that they can apply to tasks in their daily work lives.”

“I want to make sure the Harvard Library keeps moving forward—and that means keeping staff abreast of all new programs and software,” Erdmann said. “I’m passionate about having libraries adapt to meet the needs of the future.”