School of Information Sciences

SIS faculty awarded more than $200,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services


The University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences faculty recently received two grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through their Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. Associate Professor Leanne Bowler was awarded a two-year grant for $109,399 for her research titled, “Exploring Data Worlds at the Public Library: Programs and Pedagogy in Support of Youth Data Literacy.” In addition, Visiting Assistant Professor Matthew Burton and Visiting Professor and Interim Doreen E. Boyce Chair Liz Lyon were awarded $97,911 for their research titled, “The Data Scientist as the 21st Century Librarian?”

Exploring Data Worlds at the Public Library
Dr. Bowler, along with co-investigator Assistant Professor Amelia Acker, University of Texas at Austin, and community partners at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, will investigate youth data literacy in the context of technology-supported programs for young people at the public library. This project aims to increase awareness of the unique data literacy needs of youth as well as to develop strategies for training youth librarians so they can empower young people in a data-driven world.

By addressing gaps in the capacity of libraries to support the public’s knowledge, skills, and practices surrounding data, this project will contribute to IMLS’s priority of building the social and technical infrastructures of libraries nationwide, and to the development of the National Digital Platform—the “combination of software applications, social and technical infrastructure, and staff expertise that provides library content and services to all users in the USA” (IMLS).

“This project takes our research in a new and exciting direction,” said Bowler. “Data literacy is new to the world of libraries and its meaning is still open to negotiation. Although many have advocated for the education of a data-literate population, there is little consensus on what such educational programs should look like; particularly in the context of informal learning at the public library.”

Dr. Bowler joined the School of Information Sciences faculty in 2008. She has published numerous articles on topics related to youth interaction with information, data, and technology.

To follow this project’s development, visit the project’s official webpage.

The Data Scientist as the 21st Century Librarian?
Drs. Burton and Lyon are part of a multidisciplinary team that includes Bonnie Tijerina, researcher at the Data & Society Research Institute in New York City, and Chris Erdmann, chief strategist for Research Collaboration at North Carolina State University. The team will convene a group of library and non-library experts for a face-to-face national forum to create a vision and roadmap for utilizing data science, an interdisciplinary field that extracts insights from various forms of data in libraries. The project's goal is to bring together communities with an array of experiences and perspectives on data science to develop and maintain the National Digital Platform.

This project focuses on both skills and management gaps faced by librarians, and brings together diverse constituencies to discuss opportunities for coordination and collaboration. The project’s objectives are to articulate a vision for utilizing data science in libraries, develop a roadmap for continuing education in data science for librarians, and provide guidance for library administrators managing data-intensive teams.

“Overcoming these obstacles is crucial for connecting libraries to the other domains already transformed by data science,” said Burton. “We are thrilled that IMLS has invested in the School of Information Sciences and the cutting-edge research being done by its faculty.”

Dr. Burton’s research focuses on the intersection of the digital humanities, scholarly communication, and infrastructure studies. His current focus is the use of blogs as a form of scholarly communication in the digital humanities. Dr. Lyon previously held the positions of Director of UKOLN Informatics and Associate Director of UK Digital Curation Centre, and has published in the data stewardship field since 2003.

To learn more about this project, visit the official project page.

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