Weekly Reading Response – Alana Mohamed

I had mixed feelings while reading Heidorn’s piece.  I certainly think that, in this new age of digital data production, there may be no better place than an academic library to store new data.  However, I also worry about the financial burden this places on academic libraries.  Learning to maintain data could be a useful tool in helping to figure out many other struggles librarians are now facing regarding digital material, but unless the library is well funded by nonpartisan money, the data stored is susceptible to corruption.  What I mean is this: Libraries are already strained to digitize their collections, find new (and cheap) ways to catalog, create more accessible interfaces for their users, and update both digital and physical collections.  Librarianship seems to be at a bunch of crossroads that are both mind boggling and expensive.  With data curation, librarians face a new challenge that is decidedly less familiar.  As a novice librarian, I can’t really say how well adapted the average academic librarian is to deal with these new obstacles, but as a writer and reader, it seems clear to me that Heidorn skims over these difficulties.  For example, when he talks about grant writing, he isn’t clear as to how exactly librarianship can help researchers come up with data management plans.  Of course I have a general ideal of how this could be done and when he says, “Libraries have concerned themselves with digital object access and preservation since the beginning of the information revolution, so library staff who understand the underlying concepts are already well positioned to assist,” he is essentially saying the same thing.  I suspect that it will be a much more difficult process than Heidorn makes it out to be.

His point is that it will be difficult, but necessary.  But I think it’s important to confront those difficulties because without it, the only incentive to take on the burden of data management is funding.  Any researcher knows you have to be critical of your source: who conducts the research, how it is conducted, and who funds it.  But even so, large companies are still able to put out intellectually dishonest material, which is often gobbled up quickly by media and made even more unreliable with scare-tactic headlines and faulty reporting.  I worry that libraries will fall into a similar trap, taking funding from companies or government agencies with the most money and most interest in pushing a political agenda.  If libraries aren’t critical about where the funding for data management comes from, incorrect or dishonest data may be overrepresented.  Which is not to say that academic libraries don’t have their own agendas and political leanings to begin with, but it seems to me that libraries are in a particularly vulnerable position right now and extremely susceptible to this kind of corruption.

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