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Final Report of the ATLAS/Library Collaboration Task Force

Submitted June 2008; Revised September 2008

I. Introduction

This report encompasses a final report of the ATLAS/Library Collaboration Task Force, describes the spring 2008 data services pilot, and provides recommendations for continuing this pilot service program.

II. Background

In Fall 2007, Paula Kaufman (Dean, University Library), Deanna Raineri (Associate Dean for Instructional Technologies and Information Services, LAS) and Maryalice Wu (Assistant Director, ATLAS) met to discuss the possibility of the Library and ATLAS (a technology support unit in the College of LAS) collaborating to provide data-related services to campus.  A task force was formed in January 2008 with the following charge and timeline: 

Charge:  Working in concert with related initiatives that may arise in the Library, the ATLAS/Library Collaboration Task Force will coordinate joint initiatives during spring 2008, assess the effectiveness of these new services, and make recommendations for future collaboration. 

Timeline:  The taskforce will submit a progress report to the University Librarian in May 2008, and a final report with recommendations before the start of the fall semester, 2008. The taskforce will be discharged upon submission of the final report.  (Note:  This document combines the interim and final report.

The scope of the data-related services covered in this collaboration was defined as: 

a.     Providing instruction and support to students and faculty learning how to locate, download and create data sets for secondary analysis

b.     Identifying & creating course materials & teaching tools (including customized data sets)

c.      Acquiring data sets for teaching and research; facilitating access to those data sets

d.     Training & assisting in the use of statistical software

e.     NOT statistical/geospatial analysis or survey methodology (will provide referrals to other campus units)

III. Rationale

Scholarship in the digital age draws on a variety of source materials including numeric and geospatial data, as well as text, video, sound and visual images.  The Campus' key strategic initiatives­—informatics, sustainable energy and environment, and health sciences—all involve the use of research data to address real-world problems.  As these initiatives develop, the Library will be called upon to provide increased support for data-intensive research.  Failing that, individual units will continue to duplicate these services in house—an inefficient and wasteful approach to serving a common need—or another central service unit will step up to the plate.

The current collaboration draws on the respective strengths of the Library and ATLAS to extend availability of the data-related services that ATLAS provides within the College of LAS to the entire campus community.  The Library has a robust infrastructure for delivering content and services, both in-person and virtually, as well as the ability to provide data in the context of other research materials.  ATLAS offers a well-developed service profile and range of expertise related to working with numerical and geospatial datasets.  Together, the two units have the potential to provide a rich array of services to support the intellectual explorations of students and faculty who need to extract customized information from complex datasets in the course of their research. 

Thus far, the ATLAS/Library data services collaboration has relied on the willingness of hard-working people to take on extra projects.  The Taskforce hopes that a more sustainable model of support will follow the pilot’s demonstration of the potential for building a high impact program.  At this juncture, there is a risk of losing momentum and goodwill unless we continue to build on the successes outlined below.

IV. Service initiatives, Spring 2008 pilot

A number of significant service initiatives were launched during the spring 2008 pilot:  

a.     Piloted Data Services Office Hours (Wednesdays 1:30-4:30, 200D Library – Gov Docs).
        23 people (19 graduate students, 3 librarians, 1 faculty) mostly from targeted departments outside of LAS, made use of the service.

b.     Installed a data services workstation in Government Documents (SPSS, SAS & ArcGIS).

c.     Advocated for instructional space in 314 Library to include GIS and statistical software.

d.     Taught a series of three workshops on finding and downloading datasets .

f.      Gave guest lecture to GSLIS 523A, Information Sources and Services in the Social Sciences.

g.     The Library pledged $7500 toward the campus’s $15,000 ICPSR membership fee, starting in FYO9. 
         ATLAS continues to support half of the ICPSR membership ($7500) and fund the entire Roper I-poll license ($5000).  Appendix 2 shows that ICPSR is heavily used across   campus with 13,434 files downloaded in FY08.

h.     Enhanced access to ICPSR datasets via the Library catalog (records to be loaded by June 2008). 

i.     Worked with the Digital Learning Librarian to create tutorials (in Camtasia) on public opinion poll data in Roper (expected Summer 2008).

j.     Created a web gateway to existing guides to data sources < >.

k.    Drafted a Communications Plan to market these services. 

l.     Drafted webguide to data-related resources across campus—consulting, software, training, etc. (expected Summer 2008).

m.   Brainstormed ideas for services in the Undergrad’s Learning Commons (GoogleEarth workshop, ATLAS partners with UGL in CITES IM development project, office hours).

Taken together, these initiatives have established a solid foundation for achieving our long-term programmatic goals.  Most significantly, connections have been forged with many of the underserved departments (e.g., Agricultural Economics, Education, Applied Health Sciences) that were the target audience for this suite of services.   Graduate students and faculty from each of these units attended workshops or visited the Data Services Office Hours.  A new faculty member in Applied Health Sciences requested a series of course-integrated sessions on downloading datasets from ICPSR into standard statistical packages for secondary analysis for her classes next fall, which demonstrates the potential for engagement with academic programs.  The requested session, however, cannot be added to existing workload without additional support for staffing (See Appendix, Item 3). 

While we have yet to connect with other targeted departments (e.g., Extension Agents, Social Work), current resources limit further expansion.  Indeed, as word continues to spread, we risk raising expectations beyond our capacity to provide meaningful service.

V. Recommendations:

1.     Reconstitute this taskforce as the Data Services Task Force, charged with continuing the service program developed in the pilot and exploring opportunities to expand the collaboration to provide more robust support in conjunction with the evolving Scholarly Commons model;

2.     Monitor and document unmet needs for data services (see Appendix 1:  Assessment Plan);

3.     Expand Data Service Office Hours to at least five afternoons per week with revolving queue of staff and GAs with a wide range of expertise.  These data-services experts will also staff a virtual desk in the Library’s “Ask-A-Librarian” Chat/IM reference services during designated hours.

a.     Staff and GA’s from ATLAS and Government Documents with different areas of expertise, including specific software (e.g., ArcGIS, SPSS, STATA) and domain knowledge (e.g. census data, economic indicators, international statistics) will serve a broader base of users and allow us to meet specific needs identified as service gaps by current users.

b.     Adding Chat/IM services will expand our reach to off campus users such as Extension and the School of Social Work.  Social Work has long advocated for enhanced support for data services and has a large off-campus student population which will grow further with the incorporation of the undergraduate program from the Chicago campus this fall.  Extension agents have also asked the Library for more support in this area and will have fewer opportunities to visit campus due to recent budget cuts.

c.      If the half-time data services position submitted to the Library Executive Committee in FY08 (Appendix 2) is approved, it will support this expansion.  If that position is not approved, other funding will be needed to achieve a sustainable level of staffing.  Appendix 3 (Item 3c) provides cost estimates for two scenarios, in recognition that the resources available may be limited.

4.     Explore the possibility of circulating ATLAS’s loanable technology (e.g., digital cameras) from the Scholarly Commons service point.

5.     Experiment with proposed initiatives in the Undergrad’s Learning Commons Pilot data stewardship project with IDEALS and GSLIS’S Data Curation Education Program <> focusing on customized datasets drawn by ATLAS for research projects and classroom use. 

6.     Foster knowledge-sharing and cross-training among those in ATLAS, the Library and other campus providing services related to numeric and geospatial data by developing and participating in training programs, colloquia, etc.

Task Force members

JoAnn Jacoby, Chair - Education & Social Science Library

Meg Burger - Undergrad Library

Laura Hanson - Funk ACES Library

Merinda Hensley - Central Reference

Carissa Holler - Business and Economics Library

Mary Mallory - Government Documents Library

Dawn Owens Nicholson-ATLAS

Sarah Shreeves – IDEALS

Maryalice Wu-ATLAS



Appendix 1:  Assessment Plan

The suite of services we coordinate will be identified as “Data Services @ the Library,” with both ATLAS and the Scholarly Commons clearly listed as sponsors of these services.  The specific services offered under the “Data Services @ the Library” rubric will include: 

a.     Providing instruction and support to students and faculty learning how to locate, download and create data sets for secondary analysis

b.     Identifying & creating course materials & teaching tools (including customized data sets)

c.      Acquiring data sets for teaching and research; facilitating access to those data sets

d.     Training & assisting in the use of statistical software

e.     NOT statistical/geospatial analysis or survey methodology (will provide referrals to other campus units) 

We will assess the success of these service initiatives by gauging impact on targeted user groups.  These targeted groups include campus units outside of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences which are known to have unmet service needs in the areas listed above.  These include the College of ACES (particularly the departments of Human and Community Development, Agricultural and Consumer Economics and Extension), College of Business, College of Education, School of Social Work, University Library.  The targeted units were identified by analyzing the departmental affiliations of campus users downloading datasets from ICPSR (Appendix 4) as well as by task force members listing units that had approached them with unmet service needs in this area.   

If additional support to expand the Data Services Office Hours is forthcoming, we will conduct a brief needs assessment survey in summer 2008 that may identify additional units with unmet data services needs.  With additional support, we would pursue opportunities to work with the Public Engagement Working Group to create modules on quantitative and data literacy (“ Numbers in the News,” “How to Lie with Statistics”) that could be offered as part of college readiness  and undergraduate enrichment programs such as the Summer Research Opportunities Program < > for  McNair Scholars, Bridge/Transition < >, LEAD (Business) < >, the Research Apprentice Program (ACES) < > and Living and Learning Communities < >.  

The impact of these services will be measured by: 

1)      level of uptake—number of office hour visits, increase in visits over time, number of workshop attendees, number of course integrated sessions, especially in core courses in the targeted disciplines

2)     qualitative measures—Is the program effectively meeting the needs of the targeted groups? Is the program sustainable? Has data literacy increased in the targeted departments? Has this partnership raised the profile of both the Library and ATLAS?  Are we continuing to provide a level of and quality of service beyond what could be sustained by either unit individually? 


Appendix 2:  Data Services Position Request (submitted to the Library Executive Committee FY08)


Proposing Division, Unit, Group or Individual


ATLAS-Library Collaboration Task Force and the Social Sciences Division.


Primary contact:  JoAnn Jacoby (

Proposed Title


Data Services Specialist (½ time)

Faculty Rank


Academic Professional

Estimated Salary



Potential sources of funding for position


The intention is to buy-out half the time of one of the existing data services professionals at ATLAS, thus leveraging the Library’s investment by bringing known expertise in to address a long-standing service gap and solidifying the burgeoning collaboration between the two units.  ATLAS is interested in pursuing this idea, but they are more comfortable with a fund transfer arrangement than with a split position at this point in time.  I am confident that a mutually satisfactory arrangement can be achieved if the Library decides to pursue this idea.


ATLAS has also indicated a willingness to further develop our collaboration by rotating graduate students trained in different specializations (e.g., geospatial data or various statistical packages) into the Library to staff expanded office hours in Government Documents and teach workshops at the Library .   Buying out half this AP position would be a basis for negotiating additional human resource-sharing arrangements for these and other initiatives in the Library, such as user support for statistical packages in the Learning Commons.

Reports to


Associate University Librarian for Services. 


The ATLAS-Library Collaboration Task Force will serve as an advisory committee for this position which is, in essence a virtual, free-floating position serving constituents that cross-cut the current departmental and divisional structure.  Just as the Biotechnology Librarian is affiliated with the Biology Library, the Data Services Specialist will be affiliated with both Government Documents and the Education Social & Science Library, at least until the Scholarly Commons and/or Social Sciences Hub are established.

Recommended time frame for filling (immediate need, 6 months, 1 year, etc.) and explanation







Next 6 months. 


We’ve already seen a higher than expected level of activity during the Data Services Office Hours     <>

Considering that marketing has just begun and the data services work station was just installed this week, the level of uptake will likely accelerate when word spreads and these services start to be integrated into the Library’s regular instruction and outreach activities.  Starting this half time position in August would allow us to launch a more robust service profile in the fall semester to meet the increased demand.

Position Need & Rationale: explain how this position contributes to the Library’s strategic goals














The Data Services Specialist will help position the Library at the nexus of evolving scholarly practice.  Scholarship in the digital age draws on a variety of source materials including text, video and sound, as well as numeric and geospatial data.  In conjunction with the Geographic Information Science (GIS) Librarian, this position will allow the Library to provide the tools and expertise needed to support the intellectual explorations of our faculty and students who need to locate and extract customized information from complex and varied datasets. 

      The Campus' key strategic initiatives­—i nformatics, health sciences, and sustainable energy and environment—all involve the use of numeric data to address real-world problems.  As these initiatives develop, the Library will be called upon to provide increased support for data-intensive research.  Meanwhile, the shift to digital distribution has transformed the use of census and other governmental data and made access to this data simultaneously more ubiquitous and more challenging.   Within the Social Sciences Division, recent planning and visioning documents highlight data services as both an unmet need and an area where the Library can engage with a growing area of research and instructional activity among the scholars we serve.  This need—and potential—is equally acute in areas such as applied health sciences, agricultural economics, and human and community development.

     The proposed position is an opportunity to solidify and expand our nascent collaboration with ATLAS, a technology support unit within LAS that provides a suite of data services to the members of that college.  If given the opportunity to develop, this collaboration promises to bring the existing expertise in ATLAS together with the Library’s campus-wide reach to extend availability of data services to all students and faculty.  The well-developed expertise and service profile offered by ATLAS will be a potent force if we can successfully combine it with the Library’s robust infrastructure for delivering content and services, both in-person and virtually, and our ability to provide numeric data in the context of other research resources, regardless of format.     

Brief position description and job duties






















      Provides research assistance in locating, selecting and using numeric data in-person and remotely and provides consultation in retrieving, downloading and manipulating data, the creation of customized datasets, and the use of statistical packages such as SAS, SPSS and STATA for data analysis.

      Leads workshops and instructional sessions, develops web-based guides and tutorials.  Provides peer training and informal learning opportunities for other library staff regarding the use of data services to enhance public service.

      Prepares and disseminates customized datasets to support course assignments.  Works with teaching faculty to develop numeric data modules for classroom use.

      Works to incorporate and support data analysis tools and datasets into the Learning Commons and Scholarly Commons as appropriate.  This may include coordinating students and graduate students brought in from ATLAS to support statistical software.

       Participates in conversations with IDEALS, The Illinois Informatics Initiative (I 3) and others to explore the development of a data repository, including the development of metadata schema to support the long-term access and retrieval of data extractions created by the Data Services Specialist as they provide research assistance and create custom datasets for use in the classroom.

How might this position evolve to meet continuing Library needs in 5-10 years?





This position will evolve as the Library evolves and as the partnership with ATLAS evolves.   As the Learning Commons and the Scholarly Commons begin to take shape, this position will play a key role in determining how to best leverage existing resources in the Library and ATLAS to provide data services, and will help us expand our data services offerings to meet growing demand.

Library EC, rev. Sept. 2006 


Appendix 3:  Scenarios for partially buying out ATLAS staff time for Data Services@ The Library (based on estimates provided by ATLAS in May 2008)

a)  Statistical and geospatial software on the workstations in the 314 Library teaching lab.

            One time cost:  $1700 (hardware upgrade for 17 machines @ $100 each)

            Recurring cost:  $1700 (SAS and SPSS licenses @$100/seat/year)

Priority:  HIGH

Rationale: Needed to support data literacy teaching and learning initiatives and joint sessions co-taught by librarians and data specialists from ATLAS.

b)  Professional signage for room 200 “Data Service Office Hours.”   

            Onetime Cost: $100-200

Priority:  HIGH 

c)  Expand Data Services Office Hours to 3-5 days per week and bring in a wider range of expertise by drawing on a revolving queue of staff and GA’s from ATLAS and Government Documents with skills in specific software (e.g., ArcGIS, SPSS, STATA) and domain knowledge (e.g., census data, economic indicators, geospatial analysis, international statistics).  These data-services experts will also staff a virtual desk in the Library’s “Ask-A-Librarian” Chat/IM reference services during designated hours.

            Recurring Cost (Scenario 1):  Five afternoons per week: $45,000/year

Recurring Cost (Scenario 2):  Three afternoons per week: $30,000/year

Priority:  HIGH

Justification:  Adding more hours and bringing in staff and GAs with expertise in areas like GIS will serve a broader base of users and allow us to meet specific needs identified as service gaps across campus. Adding Chat/IM services will also expand our reach to off campus users such as Extension and the School of Social Work, both of which have advocated for enhanced support for data services through the Library and have a growing need for virtual support.

Based on the rapid uptake in spring 2008, demand will quickly outstrip available resources unless we can bring in more staff and increase hours to build a sustainable service program.  It should also be noted that ATLAS has already been challenged to explain how providing free services to constituents outside of the College of LAS fits within their mission. 

The idea of expanding the Data Service Office hours to encompass a broader range of expertise was first articulated in a request to convert a GA line from Government Documents for this purpose, and further refined in the request for a halftime Data Services position submitted to EC in spring 2008.   If the Data Services position is approved by EC, there will be no need for additional support.   If that position is not funded, ATLAS has outlined some approximate costs (below) for backfilling the positions that would be covering the desk and giving workshops, as well as providing staff training, hiring, scheduling and coordination.  ATLAS estimates that the  five days a week (Scenario 1) will require the equivalent of 1 FTE, which would bring a portion of three professional’s time (the Data Archivist, Stats Coordinator, and the Assistant Director for Planning and Human Resources) as well as graduate student expertise in different areas such as GIS, STATA, and SAS into the Library.  Providing these services three days a week  (Scenario 2) would involve a similar level of coordination, but less desk time and would therefore require backfilling the equivalent of more than a .5 FTE.

Budget detail:

Scenario 1:  Five Days Per Week:

Hours per semester:

20 hours on desk 5 days a week                                     300

8 organizational meetings per semester

       2 people (16 hours)                                                 16

Outside Desk work:

 Client files outside desk hours

 (average 1 hr for each day on desk)                               75

Workshops (5 per semester includes classes)                   10

Prep time workshops (average 5 hours per class)             25

Coordination of services per semester                            35

Total hours per semester (Fall and Spring):                     461


Total hours per year                                                      1152.5


If ATLAS charged their normal billing rate ($60/hour):

Fall and Spring semester                            $55,320

Summer                                                    $13,830

Total amount if billed per hour all year        $69,150


ATLAS is requesting:                                                 $45,000

Scenario 2:  Three Days a Week

Hours per semester:

12 hours on desk 3 days a week                                180

8 organizational meetings per semester

        2 people (16 hours)                                           16

Outside Desk work:

 Client files outside desk hours

 (average 1 hours each day each week)                      45

Workshops (5 per semester includes classes)              10

Prep time workshops (average 5 hours per class)        25

Coordination of services per semester                       30

Total hours per semester (Fall and Spring):                306


Total hours per year:                                               765


If ATLAS charged their normal billing rate ($60/hour):


$60 an hour (normal billing per semester)        $18,360

Fall and Spring                                                $36,720

Summer                                                          $9,180

Total amount if billed per hour all year              $45,900


ATLAS is requesting:                                                 $30,000


ATLAS Salary Structure:

Data Archivist:            Salary over 55k

Stats Coordinator:      Just under 50K

Assistant Director:      Just over 50K

Grad hourly rate:        Just over 18.3K  


d)  2-4 workstations with geospatial and statistical software

Onetime cost:   $2900-5800 (@ $1450 per machine for 2-4 workstations)

Recurring cost:  $232-464 (@$116/seat/year to license SAS, SPSS and STATA for 2-4 workstations)

Priority:  MEDIUM

Justification:  If the Data Service Office Hours are expanded, additional public access data services workstations would allow researchers to work independently with expert guidance and related research materials near at hand and those waiting in line for consultation to get started on their projects.  Further, these workstations would help establish the Scholarly Commons as a destination for doing data intensive work.


APPENDIX 4: Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) Use FY08 

The use of datasets from ICPSR increased dramatically in FY08, with 13,434 downloads by University of Illinois users as of May 15, 2008.



LAS Departments

Percent of ICPSR Files Downloaded

Political Science                      












Speech Communication                   


LAS - Unknown  Dept                              





Non-LAS Colleges & Institutes




Applied Health Sciences                              




Government & Public Affairs                                 


Social Work                  


Library & Information Science                              


Labor & Industrial Relations                                   


Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences                                




Survey Research Lab                               


Non-LAS: Unknown Unit                                






Unknown College/Unknown Unit