Meet new Social Sciences Data Librarian and Sociology Librarian Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth Foster joined the Library as the Social Sciences Data Librarian and Sociology Librarian.  Elizabeth comes to Chicago from Georgetown University Library where she was the Public Policy and Social Sciences Librarian, providing reference, research and outreach services, workshops and orientations, as well as developing collections in several subject areas.  Elizabeth has a Masters of Information Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Sociology from Kenyon College in Gambier, OH.

Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth Foster (Photo by John Zich)

Barbara Kern interviewed Elizabeth to find out how she plans to work with faculty and students.

Elizabeth can be reached at ehfoster@uchicago.edu, 773-702-8699, and Regenstein Library Room 261.

Q: How did you become interested in social sciences data?

A: I’ve always been someone who wants to know the details. Data allows you to see information at a really granular level. Throughout my career, I’ve worked with a lot of library users who want to research contemporary social problems. Data lets them take a look behind the scenes and develop their own conclusions.

Q: What are the greatest opportunities and challenges in working with research data?

A: Research data is available in a variety of formats—print, online, and disks—and none of it is consolidated in one place; it is easy to miss something valuable if you don’t know where to look. There’s an opportunity to make data discovery more seamless. In addition, the process of organizing, preserving, and sharing data and research workflows can be complicated. There are a lot of great tools that can help researchers open up their data, methods, and findings to new audiences.

Q:  What are some of the highlights of your work with the sociology faculty and students at Georgetown University?

A: I worked closely with two sociology faculty members to provide instruction to their students. In their sophomore year, they would come to the library and get an introduction to social sciences literature. In their senior year, they would return to learn more about research skills and subsequently apply them to their thesis projects. It was a great chance to work with students throughout multiple courses and help them produce original research.

Q: How will you work with social sciences faculty and students at University of Chicago in your new role?

A: I will help social sciences faculty and students discover, evaluate, and use datasets and other information resources. I will also help researchers manage and share their original data using various tools and technologies, such as the DMPTool and Knowledge@UChicago. I plan to offer consultations and workshops on data topics and social sciences resources.

Q: What was a particularly interesting project you have worked on with social sciences data?

A: I helped a student find information in Factiva to update a World Bank dataset on food price riots. We followed the authors’ methodology and found sources so she could tag them with prescribed codes and add them to the dataset.

Q: What is your favorite thing about the city of Chicago so far?

A: I love the lakefront. I grew up near Lake Erie and it is great to have access to a lakefront again. I also enjoy the museums, the food scene, and the architecture.

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