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Social Sciences Librarians Bootcamp

Librarians from 30 institutions across the country gathered to share best practices.


June 17, 2014—Jumping jacks, sit-ups, relay races? Not at the recent Social Sciences Librarians Bootcamp, hosted by Knowledge & Library Services (KLS) at Harvard Business School (HBS). Instead, attendees focused on timely topics in scholarly research, sans exercise.

Discussions focused on issues such as food policy and shrinking federal grants, and librarians from 30 institutions across the country shared case studies and best practices. User perspective was a focus throughout; in faculty and doctoral student panels, they shared how they used the library collections and services to support their research.

Representing Harvard, Tim Mahoney, Christine Riggle and Rachel Wise of KLS outlined their best practices for supporting researchers who use special collections. Since the team is very familiar with the material, they are able to quickly redirect researchers if they face a dead end.

Barbara Esty and Kevin Garewal presented “Data Mining,” on their experience gathering high-volume, high-frequency data legally, ethically and efficiently from the web. “The questions we addressed were messy and unpredictable,” said Esty. “We are figuring out the role of the library in all of this.”

Barbara’s and Kevin’s tips were hard-won and practical—look for an old computer on which to experiment, read websites’ terms of use carefully—as well as motivational.

“Don’t let a lack of programming skills stop you,” said Barbara, after recounting that they crashed the HBS file server and killed a hard drive. “Be confident—this is not easy for anyone.”

Social Sciences Bootcamp for Librarians was co-sponsored by the Boston Library Consortium, the Edwin Ginn Library (Fletcher School, Tufts University), the Harvard College Library, the Harvard Library, Knowledge & Library Services (HBS), the Tisch Library (Tufts University), University of Massachusetts Boston and Wellesley College. The full agenda can be found here.