Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Cataloging and Metadata | Library and Information Science | Scholarly Publishing


This chapter investigates the role of academic librarians, particularly those at small liberal arts institutions, in providing research data management services. Research data management may not seem like an obvious fit for curricular libraries whose primary mission is supporting teaching rather than faculty research, nor is data curation an obvious need for schools without a data repository or staff who specialize in the preservation and dissemination of data. Yet numerous reports cite data management and data services as critical services for the future of academic libraries (ACRL Planning and Review Committee, 2013; Johnson, 2014; Cox, 2013; Tenopir, 2012). The question raised, then, is how and why are data management services important in the liberal arts context? What can librarians at these institutions do to develop expertise in this growing area of the profession? What services are college and university libraries beginning to provide, and how successfully can existing models be adapted to other institutions? Does the addition of data services transform the mission of liberal arts libraries, and if so, is that transition revolutionary or evolutionary? Liberal arts librarians, as they have with numerous other shifts and trends in librarianship, can turn to models in the literature from research universities, develop communities of practice amongst themselves, and also innovate from within their own unique contexts. The authors argue that such collaboration and innovation reflect an evolutionary process as librarians build on existing skills, strategies, workflows, and knowledge. The following pages of this chapter survey the current environment, offer case studies from two small liberal arts institutions, the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University and Carleton College, and provide readers with recommended action steps to develop a path of gradual, manageable, shared, and sustainable work in research data management.