Librarians: The First Data Scientists

Data is big – and it’s getting even bigger. Every day, we create 2.5 quintillian bytes of data – so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. As this data overload shows no signs of slowing, organizations have begun to realize that establishing a competitive edge requires a strong ability to identify and analyze relevant data – and quickly. Strategic data analysis, in turn, leads to business intelligent metrics, which can help drive successful client management and improve business performance.

The business climate has already begun mining for the most capable tools and resources to utilize the opportunities that big data presents. Anjul Bhambhri – IBM’s Vice President of Big Data Projects – suggests that when “Looking for Data Scientists from Within – Start with Marketing”:

A logical first place to focus is the marketing department. CMOs and marketing professionals possess the right combination of analytical minds that are used to crunch data on consumer trends, demographics, and sales ROI. They also have the business understanding of the domain that they are analyzing, and can move beyond the numbers to help the business as a whole.

Bhambhri has a point: marketing departments are greatly valued for their ability to analyze and present findings quickly, accurately, and graphically. But there is another department in an organization that has specialized in exactly this type of data mining for years… what about the Librarians and Research Services staff?

A firm’s library and research services department is filled with professionals who are detailed-oriented, trained in research, and highly skilled in analyzing data. Law librarians are knowledge managers, dedicated to compiling and distributing valuable information within an organization, and are constantly creating in-house documents and reports. In his post, “Librarians Have Skills That Pay The Bills,” blogger Andy Burkhardt explains that:

Librarians understand information and how to organize it like few others. This skill is needed a lot of places due to the terabytes or exabytes or yottabytes…of data that is constantly being created. Librarians understand ways to get to information quickly and how to select which information is important. Librarians understand indexing, search, or semantic data.

Librarians and research services staff were the first data specialists, trained to locate, compile, analyze, and summarize large volumes of data. Any organization would do well to harness the brain power and honed skills of a library and research services team. Companies should take care to explore all of their options when searching for data specialists; utilizing the robust capabilities of a Library & Research Services department may just be the competitive edge everyone is looking for.


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