Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship, Summer 2011: E-Science Librarianship: Field Undefined

Another issue full of interesting articles:

If I may highlight one of the articles this time around, I think the E-Science Librarianship: Field Undefined is an interesting and worthwhile examination of job ads for (broadly defined) e-science librarian positions to try and get a handle on what exactly e-science librarianship is and what people in this newly defined area actually do.

The results confirm a definition of e-science librarian: someone who works collaboratively, and uses technology and library skills within the domain of science. Yet this definition is so vague, it does little to answer the question of "what is an e-science librarian" in terms of the actual roles, tasks, and positions of librarians involved in e-science. In fact, by taking a closer look at the job titles and the breakdown of positions in the sample, it becomes clear that e-science librarianship is not a defined field.


This breakdown into categories raises further questions; Will the number of data oriented librarian positions grow or will a hybrid data and subject librarian position become more common? Will the responsibilities currently handled by subject librarians increase to the extent that they become their own position? Will e-science be a standard means of science information work and its features become subsumed by existing positions so that no specific e-science position ever becomes defined? How will and to what extent will e-science methods grow and become universal? These of course are conjectures about the future, with no immediate answers. The answers depend on e-science itself and they will affect libraries and librarian training.


Even if e-science is being applied, whether or not librarians have a role in it and the type of role they have is still unclear.


Currently, it is impossible to know the degree to which e-science will be used and thus how much of a need there will be for anyone, including librarians, to engage e-science.


Organizations thinking of hiring an e-science librarian need to assess what e-science duties current staff can fill, what amount of data is being produced, and if it will need to be or will be required to be shared. Additionally, the state of e-science must continue to be monitored and studied so that those considering it can proceed in a smart and efficient way. E-Science may provide potential for librarians to branch out beyond the bounds of traditional library practices, while still dealing with the information management that characterizes library science. Yet, because e-science is not yet common practice, the library field must proceed into this new territory with caution.

(Emphasis mine.)

I'm not sure if I have anything profound to add to the above other than that none of it really surprises me.

My only worry is that the library field will enter this area with too much caution and just be totally too late to the party, irrelevant and unwanted. Of course, there are equal risks in entering the field, knocking on a bunch of doors, launching a bunch of initiatives and still being viewed as irrelevant and unwanted. It's the kind of thing where a bunch of places need to try a bunch of different things to see what sticks and hopefully why, allowing others to learn and perhaps replicate successes.

But I don't know about you, I'd rather die storming the mountain than sitting quietly in the base camp.

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