(Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts profiling the iSchool’s Library and Information Science faculty.Check out previous 7 Question posts with R. David LankesRenee F. Hill and Jill Hurst-Wahl)

Jian Qin is a great champion for the intermingling of librarianship and data science. Her excitement about the interesting ways it can be used is palpable! Also, not only is she teaching two classes this spring, but she is just finishing up the second edition of her book on Metadata.

She received funding from the National Science Foundation for the Science Data Literacy Project AND from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop the eScience curriculum. Both of these were the precursors to our current Data Science CAS.

If you want a chance to have her as a professor in a specialized class, you can enroll in either Foundations of Digital Data (676) or Metadata (681).


Questions answered: What is your name? What is your headline? What is your claim to fame? or in what area do you have bragging rights?

KM: Which Social Media do you prefer (If no social media, why not?)

JQ: Well, Twitter is better than others. Facebook exposes too much privacy – I don’t like to get too personal and then when you just want to share a picture with your sister you are also sharing it with colleagues and students! So I like Twitter better.

KM: What is your favorite read to recommend?

JQ: Just last week I read an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education with some really interesting research! It was Big-Data Project on 1918 Flu Reflects Key Role of Humanists. This is pretty cool research and I just can’t help but keep reading. A lot of data that people have not paid attention to, or have used in a traditional way, is now accessible. Then, people are able to leverage the technology to make these facts and history more interesting and more “full” through the storytelling capability of the technology.

Don’t underestimate this kind of big data – to me it involves a lot of information organization. So on one hand, you identify books, articles, and newspapers that were published in the past so you can build a digital collection. Then you organize this digital collection and represent them [resources] with metadata and some controlled vocabulary so you can present them in a more intuitive way. This also enables the technology to make these static information resources interactive on the web space. It is the coolest thing!

KM: What is your favorite local hangout?

JQ: Last year, I went out with my PhD students several times. Basically, we bought coffee, and all the seats were taken, so we discovered the second floor of the Marshall Square. There are a bunch of tables and it is a great hangout space! We actually had a couple coffee hours last year and it was a good space for medium sized groups. You get your Starbucks coffee and the space to yourselves.

KM: What was your aha moment, when you knew you wanted to dedicate your professional life to the information field?

JQ: Well I started my undergraduate degree in Library Science because I loved reading and thought “Oh! If I work in the library, I can read all the books that I want!” That’s what took me to the library science field, and I never left.

It took me a long time to realize that I wanted to pivot towards more data-centric study. When I graduated from my undergraduate, I went straight into graduate school in Western Ontario and then from there I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. Luckily I figured it out through my PhD program. Although during my school, I worked in a variety of library settings (cataloging departments and circulation desks), I never actually pictured myself working as a librarian. I think I knew that I might become an educator.

KM: What do you think makes the iSchool LIS program different from all the others?

JQ: I think having the Information Management (IM) program side by side with the Library Science (LIS) program is key because information management is core to library science. We manage information not just in the library, but everywhere. Even though the bulk of our students graduate and work in the library world, I think this kind of skill is an employable literacy skill. Going through our program poises the graduates to be in a better position. The condition is that they [the student] have to keep an open mind and learn more technology, as well as data-related skills, in order to be able to take full advantage of this opportunity.

KM: What is the craziest (most positive) development you see actually happening in the LIS world?

JQ: I think it is crazy and exciting that academic librarians have entered data management/data curation. They have basically started with this new idea of being embedded in research teams. They go into their project meetings and become part of it. It is more like going into the process where the knowledge is being created, rather than following the end product of the research process. So instead of sitting in the library and waiting for the books to come to you, you proactively go to where people are doing the research. Then, by being a member of their group, you can have a better understanding of their needs and foresee what kind of services they will need in the near future, so you can go and create them. So data services, data management, and data curation are proactive services. This is the most exciting idea, because when this idea is floated, it is still considered a crazy idea. Many librarians are kind of scared: “How do I talk to them? How do I find a way in? How do I know if I am welcome?” These kind of fears are common across the board, but librarians have broken the ice and have accomplished a lot in the last five or six years.

KM: What was your favorite part or moment of graduate school? (proudest, most fun, etc)

JQ: Graduation was the most exhilarating moment in my life! I said, “I did it! I did it!” Because before I did my PhD program, I was thinking “how am I going to write that dissertation?! I don’t even know how to do it!” But I did it and that’s the moment where I felt SO proud. You don’t even know you are doing the hard part, you just keep plugging away and it gets done. That is the fun part!

KM: Bonus question: What gets your endorsement this week? (some cultural item of the week – random interesting reading, music you can’t get out of your head, news you are geeking out about, project you find interesting, TV show you are marathon watching, etc…)

JQ: So, over the winter break, I watched a Chinese TV series program. It was about an empress and her life (The Empress of China). I don’t usually watch TV series that are that long, but this one I really just got into it. There were two songs, one at the beginning and one at the end of each episode, and they just keep still ringing in my head. It is over now, but every day I find myself humming them!