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An Invitation to an Adventure in Data Management and Curation at the National Transportation Library

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The following is a guest post by Laura Farley, Fellow, National Transportation Library, Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

If you’re looking to build skills as a data manager and have a lasting impact on federal data curation, come join the National Transportation Library (NTL) Fellowship program. As a current Fellow, I can attest that your experiences here will sharpen your technical and reasoning skills, challenge you to think broadly and creatively, and introduce you to a range of professionals working together to make government data accessible and sustainable.

NTL is looking for their next Data Management/Data Curation Fellow. This Fellows Program offers hands-on experience with exposure to creating and evaluating data management plans, crafting data curation standard operating plans and policies, cataloging data sets for preservation, data format migration and other data services, all within the context of providing access to an entire research package which will contain data and reports. Fellows will also conduct their own research, as well as participate in networking and outreach. This is your opportunity to have a direct impact on the future of data management and curation practices in a federal agency.

NTL operates within the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) at the US Department of Transportation (US DOT). Established in 1998, NTL operated within the US DOT Library until 2015 when the libraries separated. Today, NTL serves a vital role collecting, disseminating, and preserving transportation information. The staff of eight provide a range of services including virtual reference and coordination of the nation’s transportation knowledge networks for information professionals. In 2016, NTL strengthened their commitment to data management within the library and throughout BTS. The NTL Fellowship program grew out of that commitment.

I ended up as NTL’s first Fellow as the result of a series of chain reactions beginning with a database course in library school and ending with a growing desire to switch career focuses from serving the public directly to serving the public through data management. I came to realize I wanted to be part of this moment in data. Of course, data science isn’t new, but this moment is special as large amounts of data become easier to access and share, and data visualization becomes ever more present in how we interact with information. It was during the fall 2016 Library of Congress Collections As Data symposium that I became deeply interested in the intersection between traditional humanities and data. I could see how learning to collect, organize, analyze, present, and preserve data would become increasingly important for humanities fields, not just STEM.

U.S. Map of Annual Freight Tonnage by mode
Tonnage on Highways, Railroads and Inland Waterways: 2002. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Freight Analysis Framework, Version 2.2, 2007.

It was this new curiosity that lead me to the NTL Fellowship Program where I could increase my skills in data management on the job. Information professionals come from varied professional backgrounds, making it part of why a career in librarianship so exciting. I majored in history and never would have believed 10 years into my career I’d find myself on a data driven path working at a 100% digital library. As a person for whom numbers are a challenge, it’s an endless source of amazement to me that my colleagues are statisticians, economists, and GIS specialists. I have found collaborating with colleagues outside my immediate skill set to be an asset; we learn from one another’s professional perspectives and work styles.

Over this first year I will complete rotations with all areas of the library; reference, cataloging, data management, and systems operations. During year two and three I will work on a data focused project of my choosing. The Fellowship is meant to be mutually beneficial, an opportunity for NTL to bring new ideas and experiences into the library, but also educationally focused for the Fellow to pursue training and projects that will build their skills. Already I’ve had challenging and fruitful experiences, including coursework, field trips, and networking. Most importantly, I’ve had the chance to immediately contribute to real projects at NTL, including website usability and designing a data management plan for incoming data sets.

The DM/DC Fellowship is paid, and open to applicants with a Master’s degree in Library Science, Information Science, Computer Science, or related field. View the fellowship details here. Applications are due by 5:00 PM ET, Monday, September 25, 2017.

If you’re looking for a challenge and the chance to collaborate with innovative, passionate, and driven professionals, this opportunity is for you. Just consider, how many fellowships give you the opportunity to eat lunch on a decommissioned nuclear shipping vessel as part of your welcome?

Nuclear Ship Savannah on the water in 1962
Nuclear Ship Savannah, the first commercial nuclear power cargo vessel, en route to the World’s Fair in Seattle, 1962. Photo from U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (

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