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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Library Cultures of Data Curation: Adventures in Astronomy

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

University libraries are partnering with disciplinary data producers to provide long-term digital curation of research datasets. Managing dataset producer expectations and guiding future development of library services requires understanding the decisions libraries make about curatorial activities, why they make these decisions, and the effects on future data reuse. We present a study, comprising interviews (n=43) and ethnographic observation, of two university libraries who partnered with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) collaboration to curate a significant astronomy dataset. The two libraries made different choices of the materials to curate and associated services, which resulted in different reuse possibilities. Each of the libraries offered partial solutions to the SDSS leaders’ objectives. The libraries’ approaches to curation diverged due to contextual factors, notably the extant infrastructure at their disposal (including technical infrastructure, staff expertise, values and internal culture, and organizational structure). The Data Transfer Process case offers lessons in understanding how libraries choose curation paths and how these choices influence possibilities for data reuse. Outcomes may not match data producers’ initial expectations but may create opportunities for reusing data in unexpected and beneficial ways.

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