UC DLFx conference tackles the new frontier of data management

Vessela Y Ensberg (UC Davis), Emily Lin (UC Merced), Ho Jung Yoo (UC San Diego), Amy Neeser (UC Berkeley) at UCDLFx 2018

The inaugural 2018 University of California Digital Library Forum (UC DLFx), "Building the UC Digital Library: Theory and Practice," took place February 27th to March 1st at UC Riverside. The conference brought together librarians, digital technology experts, educators, policy-makers, and research support staff from the UC campuses and the California Digital Library. Participants discussed and explored how libraries and research support departments are engaging with the constantly changing and challenging world of data and digital scholarship. Keynote lectures were given by Christina Borgman, Don Norman, Greg Lucas, and Guenter Waibel, and presentations included launching a digital lifecycle; copyright complexities in the digital ecosystem; assessing and curating digital collections; defining and sustaining digital collections and digital scholarship services. Project presentations showcased how individual UCs are handling digital library issues through collaborative projects with campus researchers. 

Three pre-conference events took place the morning before the conference began. Amy Neeser, the RDM program manager at UC Berkeley, and Scott Peterson, UC Berkeley Library RDM operations team member, participated in the Data Curation Unconference along with 30 other attendees representing eleven institutions. During this unconference, organized by the UC Data Curation Common Knowledge Group, participants broke into groups to address self-selected topics, then reconvened to report back what they had discussed. The unconference groups grappled with how to form long term relationships with units outside the library; how to work with non-traditional data for archiving, such as digital humanities projects; how to make publicly available data discoverable; and how to better educate and advocate for data curation services with researchers.  

Amy participated in the panel “Demystifying Data Curation” on the conference’s first day. Through case studies from UC Merced, UC Davis, UC San Diego, and the University of Michigan (where Amy previously worked), this panel focused on specific steps and concrete actions to structure the seemingly amorphous process of data curation, with the goal of making data discoverable, citable, comprehensible, and reusable. Recommendations included asking how end users want to receive their data when wrangling and bundling it, as well as how bundling data will impact discovery; actively keeping EZID records up to date and descriptive; and doing content and context reviews of data sets by making sure they have readme files, contact information, metadata, and licenses. Most importantly, the panel agreed it was better to do any, even small curation actions as soon as possible instead of waiting for a more comprehensive review. 

Scott Peterson teaching Library Carpentry workshop at UC DLFx (UC Berkeley)There were also a few post-conference events that took place after the UC DLFx. One of these was an all day Library Carpentry workshop Scott taught with four instructors from other UCs. Library Carpentry is a part of the Software and Data Carpentry family. Through trainings, Library Carpentry seeks to meet the software and data skills needs and requirements of library professionals. The morning was centered around an introduction to data for librarians, in which we went through jargon busting, the foundations and best practices for using and collecting data, and an introduction to regular expressions. The afternoon session centered around an introduction to the Unix shell, which included navigating the shell as well as counting and text mining with it. About twenty people attended.

UC DLFx brought together educators from across California to tackle the constantly changing environment in academia as it becomes more data- and digitally-centered. This was a motivating and inspiring conference that fostered a community around issues that most of us are struggling with. During the closing keynotes by California State Librarian, Greg Lucas, and Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director of CDL, Guenter Weibel, both committed to carry on from this inaugural event and to host a UC DLFx on an annual basis.