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Supporting local data users in the UK academic community

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Data collection in the UK can be traced back to Roman times with the introduction of 5-yearly population censuses however it is only in recent history that the acquisition, distribution and analysis of quantitative data in digital format has been possible. 1967 saw the establishment of the SSRC Data Bank at the University of Essex. The 1970s and 1980s saw the emergence of ‘data laboratories’ within a number of UK tertiary education institutions. This evolution continued with the formation of Edinburgh University Data Library (1983) and Oxford Data Library (1985) and more recently the London School of Economics (LSE) Data Library and the LSE Research Laboratory Data Service. Based at tertiary education institutions these specialised libraries have developed independently to assist researchers and teachers in the use of quantitative data for analysis and research purposes. With Web technology and advances in telecommunications this role has continued to develop to include support for a whole range of digital data resources via National Data Centres. Thus in this digital age with increased IT literacy, technological exposure and expectancy the data librarian’s role is ever more confusing and difficult to identify. This paper will discuss the differing areas of expertise within the UK data libraries with particular reference to their relationship with National Data Centres, the role of the Data Information Specialists Committee – UK (DISC-UK), in addition to the role played by other information staff which identify them as potential data librarians from ‘non-data library’ institutions

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