Digital Librarian-in-Residence Program at the University of Queensland

Marco Fahmi1, Gillian Hallam1, Angela Hannan1, Felicity Berends1

1The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia


In partnership with University of Queensland Library (UQL), the research office in the Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) has introduced a Digital Librarian-in-Residence (DLiR) program with the goal of enabling liaison librarians to respond to and support the needs of the faculty in the area of eResearch. The residency allows the Digital Librarian to gain practical experience learning about and engage with researchers in digital humanities (DH) as well as carrying out a project in the area of digital literacy.

The paper presents the rationale behind this new collaborative initiative, reviews the effectiveness of the residency program and highlights opportunities and challenges that face each stakeholder.


Across the academic world, there is a growing interest in using data sets, computer-aided analytics and interdisciplinary collaboration with technical staff to conduct digital research. In the humanities and social sciences, for example, this is reflected in the emergence of digital humanities (DH) as important disciplinary practice.

However, the diversity and complexity of digital researchers’ technical needs can be bewildering and overwhelming. In DH, for instance, “research results have been impressive and disappointing, exhilarating and frustrating. Learning from past successes and failures will help meet today’s data analytic challenges and opportunities or studying text in statistical applications ranging from business transactions and cybersecurity to health indicators” [1].

This represent a call for action for university research support services. At the University of Queensland, the faculty response was the inception of a Digital Humanities and Social Sciences project that aims to investigate and develop durable ways to support DH. The project, led by a Research Fellow, not only set up a new specialised support service within the faculty, but also to determine how to transfer digital research support knowledge and skills to research support staff across the university.

The Digital Librarian-in-Residence program was adopted as the strategy to transfer knowledge to the university library’s support services. The value of the residency for the library is to gain insight into the specialised requirements of digital research in the humanities and social sciences and to comprehend the diverse needs across schools and disciplines. The objective of rotating librarians in the residency is to incrementally develop an ongoing digital research support service and a suite of tailored resources for researchers and research students who possess limited technical knowledge and skill.


The residency program provided the opportunity to reconceptualise the role of the liaison librarian.  Traditionally, liaison librarians have mainly supported the teaching and learning dimensions of academic life; research support represents a new and challenging area of professional practice.  Nevertheless, library staff were eager to step out of their comfort zone to acquire new knowledge and skills.

Following an interview process, two liaison librarians were selected for the new role of digital librarians-in-residence.  The initial run program, which took place in the first half of 2017, saw two librarians successively spend 2.5 days per week over a period of three months embedded with the Digital Humanities and Social Sciences project.

As they were physically co-located with the Research Fellow, the librarians’ activities encompassed observing and documenting consultations with HASS researchers in need of digital research support, as well as conducting a self-directed project on some aspect of digital research support.  Trello boards were used as an online collaboration tool to curate relevant documents, to capture learnings and to share knowledge.

Toward the end of their residency, the digital librarians were well-acquainted with the digital needs and expectations of HASS researchers and were able to take the lead in consultations with researchers. Each residency culminated in a seminar given by the digital librarian where they summarised their experiences and presented the findings of the self-directed project.


As the initial residencies represented a pilot, it was critical to evaluate the processes of and outcomes from the program.  The high levels of enthusiasm on the part of the librarians as they were introduced to new concepts and undertook their own project were balanced by the reality of the pressure caused by a half-time placement that ran alongside their regular responsibilities.  This not only required a fresh understanding of autonomy and flexibility, but also patience and support on the part of library managers.

The residencies were regarded as an investment of staff time in a truly experiential learning opportunity, with the self-directed project presenting a tangible outcome of the learning. The first project conducted an audit of the training and development activities relating to digital research that undertaken by library staff and delivered to researchers. A project report identified gaps in training for eResearch and how these might be bridged in the future. The second project created a library guide that contained information and resources on digital text mining for those will limited technical skills. The guide was made available as part of the library’s online resources for the research community.

The DLiR program has successfully addressed some of the concerns about the role of the academic library in the evolving research arena.  Lauerson has commented on some of the challenges: “…we found that the support of data literacy doesn’t fit all subjects the same way. We had a huge impact with this in Humanities and Social Sciences but we are not having the same breakthrough with natural- and health science. That might has something to do with local context but we also find it hard to make a fit and find the right role for the library because the community of natural and health scholars has been working with data for a long time” [2].

As the mental model for many academic researchers is often about being ‘the expert’, there is a danger that they then misinterpret the role of the library staff by assuming that they are also actually seeking to be ‘experts’. However, academic library staff do not need to be the experts, but rather the facilitators.  They are in a prime position to facilitate the connections, relationships and networks across the campus and build the community spaces where different groups can come together to discuss, share and learn. The authors believe that this critical message needs to be clearly articulated: they believe that as the Digital Librarian-in-Residence program expands and is adopted in other schools and faculties, tangible evidence will emerge about the ways in which the library can contribute to changing researchers’ own understandings.


  1. Gaffield, C. Seminar: “Words, words, words: How the digital humanities are rebooting the study of people”. Available from:, accessed 10 June 2017.
  2. Lauerson, C. The Library of today might not fit the reality of tomorrow. The Libraries Lab, 16 December 2016. Available from, accessed 13 June 2017.



Marco Fahmi leads the Digital Humanities and Social Sciences initiative at the University of Queensland. The initiative supports technology- and data-driven research activities and the development of a Digital Humanities and Social Sciences strategy.

Dr Gillian Hallam is Manager, Information & Digital Literacy, Learning and Research Services, The University of Queensland Library. In this role Gillian is responsible for developing strategy and policy for information and digital literacy initiatives across the academic community.

cropPAL2: Creating Ongoing, Mutually Beneficial Collaboration Between Biological Scientists and Librarians

Ms Kylie Black1, Dr Cornelia Hooper2, Dr Agi Gedeon3, Ms Katina Toufexis1, Ms Merrilee Albatis1, Mr Scott Nicholls1, Professor A. Harvey Millar2

1University Library, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia,;;

2ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia,;

3Office of Research and Innovation, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia,


Throughout 2016 and 2017, the University of Western Australia (UWA) Library partnered with researchers in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology on the cropPAL2 project, an Australian National Data Service (ANDS) High Value Collections project. In addition to developing the second iteration of the existing cropPAL database of agricultural protein data (, the project was highly successful in establishing the mutually beneficial collaborative partnership between the researchers in Plant Energy Biology and librarians in the UWA Library. This paper will outline some of the key benefits that can occur with librarians working with researchers on data driven projects.


High throughput plant genomics and advanced breeding methodologies underpin the global collaborative efforts targeted at increasing food production. Due to lack of indexing and linking, these growing data resources are critically under-explored and this limits their potential to be used in innovative crop development. The original cropPAL database (compendium of crop Proteins with Annotated Locations), provides open access to protein data for wheat, barley, rice and maize from data that was generated over 10 years by over 300 institutions. The cropPAL2 project built on this platform for more crops of high economic value as a food source (banana, canola, grapevine, potato, sorghum, soybean and tomato), providing access to protein data and linking it to global plant protein catalogues. The Centre for Plant Energy Biology, in collaboration with the UWA Library and ANDS, successfully built cropPAL2 with funding from the ANDS High Value Collections Project scheme.


The Library contributed to the cropPAL project through librarian expertise in searching and retrieving scholarly literature, formulating and executing complex search strategies, bibliographic database tools, metadata, and research data management. These skills were critical to the success of the project in terms of improving the efficiency of the cropPAL data collation process and ensuring that the dataset was described, stored, and made available in an open access format. There is now an opportunity to further promote these skills and expertise to other parts of the UWA research community.

Involvement in cropPAL provided an opportunity for librarians to contribute directly to a research project that has economic, social, health, environmental and academic impact. It also allowed the Library to assist the University in meeting a number of objectives in its Strategic Plan relating to internationally renowned research, including undertaking “research across all our disciplines, focused on issues of relevance to our communities and industries, while generating understanding and solutions of global value” and building “problem-oriented multidisciplinary teams” [1]. The collaboration focused on two areas: search strategy, literature capture/text mining and permissions; and data management and promotion of the resulting cropPAL2 dataset.

The project demonstrated that for searching, capturing and dealing with permissions around literature, the collaboration between scientists and librarians was highly beneficial. Being embedded in a research team over an 18 month project led to insights into how research projects are conducted and especially the need to balance time spent doing research with other tasks: the reporting required, attending project meetings, conferences and writing papers. At a more detailed level, it was very informative to see how researchers search for and manage biological information and the importance of co-authorship and citations, enabling librarians to better assist other researchers. Forming a close working relationship with the scientists in Plant Energy Biology has led to assistance in other areas, such as librarians providing data for grant applications. The project has also led to some offshoot benefits that the Library and Plant Energy Biology will continue working on together, in relation to automating text mining and updating of the cropPAL collection in future.

In return, there was a mutual benefit resulting in improved data management. As with the first area, there were benefits for the Library in working so closely with real researchers with real data, such as versioning, allocating DOIs, and how to address the question of a new version versus an update. Scientists involved in cropPAL represented the senior user group for a Library data repository project reviewing dataset maintenance, and advising in a repository platform migration project aimed to improve hosting of research datasets.

Additionally, the project provided an extremely valuable and rare opportunity for a librarian to be fully embedded within a research team and within the research process. This resulted in an increased confidence in the librarian to be able to directly and positively contribute to the research process.


Librarian expertise in search strategy and data management was part of the original project proposal and resulted in a number of contributions. In the area of literature searching, the librarian was able to identify functionality within the EuropePMC database (, which facilitated specific section searching techniques to improve the relevancy of overall search results. The cropPAL database relies on extracting relevant data from the published literature so efficient searching is critical. While the researchers were already aware of the existence of EuropePMC, librarians were able to develop search strings that bypassed the functional limits of the interface. Library staff analysed how the section search could be developed further by referring to the literature [2] and then applying these learnings to the problem of finding protein data for the selected species. Librarians were also able to leverage off the results of the literature searches that were carried out by researchers in the creation of the original cropPAL. The scientists in Plant Energy Biology had retained records of all the literature that had been manually assessed for inclusion or exclusion from cropPAL, which made it an excellent database to test the effectiveness of search strategies.

The collaboration between researchers and librarians was more complex in relation to research data management, as the cropPAL dataset was used as an example in relation to data promotion, storage, versioning and management. This was part of a Library project to decommission the internal system and migrate the data to the UWA Research Repository. In particular, discussion of the issue of data inheritance led to new approaches towards how data is submitted and linked to UWA staff to ensure ongoing data maintenance and accountability. Further discussions around the data archiving and security influenced the organisation of server and back-up server infrastructure within the wider university system. The benefit for the researchers was in understanding more about these issues and being able to apply them to the cropPAL dataset as it was being developed.


The cropPAL2 project has led to a new approach being developed for data curation and linkage, involving personnel from Plant Energy Biology, the Library and from the Office of Research Enterprise. The novel approach of cropPAL data curation foresaw a software concept that can identify data in scientific studies at high precision and automate the process of data capture and linkage. Such software will be developed with commercial distribution in mind and will contain several strategies developed during the work on both cropPAL projects and the related SUBA project (for Arabidopsis subcellular protein localisations, This highlights the positive change in attitude towards the value of a tight collaboration between the local institutional library services and lab-based scientists.


[1] The University of Western Australia, UWA 2020 Vision: Strategic Plan: 2014-2020. Available from, accessed 16 June 2017, p.7.

[2] Kafkas, S., et al., Section level search functionality in Europe PMC. Journal of Biomedical Semantics, 2015, 6(7). DOI: 10.1186/s13326-015-0003-7


Kylie Black is the Senior Librarian for the Faculty of Science at the University of Western Australia. Prior to commencing in the UWA Library in 2013, she worked as a Subject Specialist: Music at the State Library of WA and as a librarian at Curtin University. Kylie is a UWA graduate, with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Musicology and a Graduate Diploma in Information and Library Studies from Curtin University. She has previously won the Australian Library and Information Association’s Early Career Award for excellence in the first 5 years of her career, as well as being selected as the Western Australian representative for a Goethe Institute study tour of German libraries. Her interests include measuring research impact and library support for systematic reviews.

Sentencing for MURDA

Ms Catherine Nicholls1

Contributing Author: Nicholas McPhee2

Content contributors: David Groenewegen3, Neil Dickson4, Adrian Tritschler5, Steve Quenette6, David Lam7

1Monash University, Melbourne, Australia,

2Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, mcphee@monash.ed

3Monash University, Melbourne, Australia,

4Monash University, Melbourne, Australia,

5Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, tritschler@monash.ed

6Monash University, Melbourne, Australia,

7Monash University, Melbourne, Australia,


Every institution knows that sinking feeling, when it comes across research data that has maybe been hanging around for too long, probably with the wrong crowd.  When asked to identify itself, the research data shrugs and says it has no owner, it doesn’t have to explain what it’s about, or where it has come from…in fact, it chooses to live within the shadows. Or maybe it was never made aware that it needed to know this information and provide it when required. Other data may have been identifiable at some point, but was moved around so much, all of its context was lost and it too has fallen onto hard times.  It just wants to stay where it is, clogging up critical (often expensive) space and resources.  In amongst this underbelly of rough house data, there can also co-exist golden nuggets of key research data.  But sometimes these too can fall into the shadows and be hard to find or identify.  Missing these golden nuggets (or the ‘good citizen’ data), can have consequences as well, for all research institutions. So how do we best weed out the bad data and preserve the good?


The aim of this presentation is to discuss a recent Monash case study, which involves a range of different stakeholders and solutions (both technical and procedures/policy wise) that has resulted in some small, yet valuable steps forward in identifying ways to tackle some of these data management issues.  In particular this presentation will highlight how existing information management principles have been modified and enhanced,  to enable a specific focus on the e-research space.  The aim here is to develop scalable policies and procedures around how we sentence data going forward to help manage data growth issues into the future.  The work to date has been successful due to the combined efforts of IT staff, University Library, eResearch and Records and Archives staff all working collaboratively.

By ‘sentence’ we mean applying a statement of action for the data to be either deleted, moved by a certain date or permanently retained.  For example a set of data that was sentenced on the 30/6/2017 with “D2018” should be destroyed (meaning deleted permanently) on or around the 30/6/2018.


The case study will cover the following points:

The big picture

-Brief description of Monash as an institution (number of researchers, major areas of research, etc).

-Current policy framework and the role of the Monash Agency Working Group (MAWG), including how  in this instance, MAWG brought together a range of University functions including staff from IT, Library, eResearch and Records and Archives management to help tackle various data management challenges, including how to better identify and then sentence research data  for either retention or disposal purposes.

Identification of specific issues that shaped the case study

-Identification of issues (hardware decommissioning and migration, orphaned data, general data management challenges, growth of data now greater than our ability to store it etc)

-Rationale behind the continuing University Data Lifecycle Project which is addressing both corporate and research data management needs (focus of this presentation is on the research space).

– Specific mention of the need in the research space for the consolidation of orphaned research data collections (e.g. use of a managed repository called MURDA and the processes built up around that to ensure a range of things take place over the longer term, including the capture of useful metadata that can then be used help sentence the data and take action on it.)

-Brief discussion of data sources and motivation for creation of MURDA (e.g. decommissioning of eResearch standalone servers and IBRIX), and an overriding desire to not repeat past mistakes, e.g. to address past metadata failures, and to stop placing an over reliance on individual IT staff members to adhocly apply sentencing to data. The goal of this case study was to look for ways to support these actions (and staff and ultimately the researchers themselves)  from a higher level with a more consistent, across the board application of policy, procedures and processes around data retention and disposal activities..

Nuts and bolts of case study

-Overview of data sentencing (e.g. data retention and disposal rules) around research data at Monash University.

-Details of ongoing work to sentence research collections held in MURDA (with a specific focus on some of the processes that have been adapted or developed in this case study that lend themselves to being used across the larger e-research space).

– Future plans and enhancements for improving metadata storage/capture (e.g. CRAMS, but also the simplicity of some specifics e.g. allowing for a searchable field to record retention or disposal sentences in).


Facing up to and then attempting to wrangle the scale of some of this badass legacy data, is not for the faint hearted.  It takes a lot of different kinds of expertise and involves a fair amount of trial and error.  But it’s  not all blood and guts and gore.  Starting the process and dealing with even small amounts of data sentencing can produce some quick wins and reassure those involved that it is worth tackling.  As letting the problem continue to grow and attempting to always try and correct it retrospectively (or leave to a ‘future’ staff member to fix) is not particularly prudent or wise in this current world of rapid data growth.

Some additional early reflections include:

-Sometimes, the stick is more appropriate than the carrot (i.e. giving researchers specific deadlines and enforcing them is often the only way to force a decision)

-Technology is largely irrelevant when it managing a repository like the MURDA (i.e. the storage only has to be effective, not elegant as the important aspects are the policies and procedures that allow data to be archived in line with good data management guidelines, as well as the metadata that is captured about the collections)

– Importance of gaining visibility over the data cannot be overstated

– May start off with IT or other administrative staff overseeing and refining the process, but the long game is for researchers to be able to manage some of these tasks independently themselves (although this will rely on mature tools being available to permit this to occur, along with the continued development of appropriate processes and policy to support the disposal and retention activities across the board).

Figure 1. Overview of how Monash University supports its researchers with their data management needs.


Catherine is a Records Manager professional with over 20 years experience working in the tertiary sector, across both Monash University (her current employer) and previously, the University of Melbourne.  Catherine is also a current (part time) PhD candidate at Monash University.  At Monash, Catherine has been fortunate to work with the Monash Agency Working Group (including the Library and eResearch team) to develop today’s presentation.

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