uw-madison data information literacy reading group

The DIL reading group came about in much the same way that other ideas have popped into my head: one moment it wasn’t there, the next it suddenly was. I was leading an early summer RDS meeting and reflecting on the challenge of figuring out meaningful ways of growing our collective knowledge about data management education. Suddenly it hit me: we should start a reading group. It would provide a chance for RDS members, including myself, to carve out time for these topics, to build community (especially with liaisons, who are so critical to the success of these efforts!), and to increase the visibility of RDS within the libraries. A total win-win situation.

So many ideas have been rattling around in my head, percolating, ever since I attended the Data Information Literacy Symposium in 2013. I distinctly remember how thrilled I was to be coming to UW-Madison, where there was a whole team of people already aware of the importance of RDM. I had tons of ideas about the projects we could undertake. I wasn’t really aware of some of the challenges and underlying issues at the time, and the truth is that there are no existing resources for any sort of targeted RDM education. The outreach and education happens if and when I can offer one-off sessions but that’s about it. I’ve been doing my best to build relationships, especially with liaisons, but it’s wild how challenging it can be to figure out how to break into this area! I figured a reading group was a good place to start finding others who could champion data information literacy alongside me.

On August 19, I sent out the following email to the libraries and RDS listservs:

In an effort to collectively grow our knowledge on teaching data management skills, Research Data Services is convening a fall reading group. This is a good opportunity for librarians, technologists, and graduate students to come together to learn about and discuss an emerging topic in our field. A basic understanding of data management core concepts and information literacy core concepts is helpful but in-depth knowledge is not necessary. We will read Data Information Literacy, published by Purdue Libraries Press. Copies of the book will be provided courtesy of the GLS.

The DIL reading group will meet monthly in September, October, November, and December at times selected after reading group participants have been identified. We ask that those who join the group commit to coming to all four 1.5 hour meetings, barring unexpected schedule changes. At the end of the year we will evaluate as a group what future steps could be taken to implement what we have learned.

This reading group will be capped at ten participants. To express interest in joining, please contact me no later than Friday, August 28.

Then I waited. Who would be interested? I had no idea. As it turned out, we had nearly double (almost 20) people express interest, though I stayed true to my cap. Participants include liaisons across disciplines (mostly sciences), a teaching and learning librarian, two graduate students, and a non-librarian RDS member. (Note: there would be tremendous value in explicitly opening up the group to campus rather than just the libraries, but I am starting close to home and keeping it manageable in this experimental phase.)

Sustainability is something I think about a lot. I want to build things that won’t just dissipate if I am not constantly fanning the flames. Part of this is buy-in, so community building will make or break you. It’s not just about action – that’s a big part of it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also about what you feel: if you feel you have a team, that you have allies, that there’s a shared understanding of the relevance of the work, it can make a world of difference. And even beyond the fact that data management is the topic at hand, I think it’s hugely beneficial to be learning and exploring topics in fun, open, social, interdisciplinary ways. I feel constantly siloed, like a lone wolf lurking in the outskirts. I’m not part of the teaching and learning crowd – but wait, I do so much teaching and presenting. I’m not part of the marketing and outreach crowd – but wait, I do so much marketing and outreach. This isn’t to say that I don’t have dear colleagues in this area that I connect with and communicate with, but thus far there is no natural intersection in the work that we do. And it’s kinda strange.


So where are we now? A few whenisgood polls later, we’ve got our schedule all prepped and ready to go. We’ll have our first meeting at the end of the week. I adore this book because it breaks up so nicely into sections! Our schedule:

Meeting 1

Meeting 2

  • Read Part II: Case Studies (pages 73-205) *This section of the book is filled with case studies – and they’re all quite interesting. However, it would be a bit much to ask everyone to read all of them so we’ll decide at the first meeting how we want to tackle them.*

Meeting 3

  • Read Part III: Moving Forward (pages 205-247)

We’ll see how these fall meetings go. We will also have a final January meeting with the group to sort of wrap things up, decide on next steps, and I’ll speak at one of UW’s teaching and learning brown bags to report back on how it went.

Has anyone convened a library reading group, either on data management or another similar concept? I would love to hear about your experience!


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