Magazine article Information Outlook

Bibliometrics: Putting Librarianship on a New Track

Magazine article Information Outlook

Bibliometrics: Putting Librarianship on a New Track

Article excerpt


John Harbison, a 35-year veteran of law libraries and information services, recently said that "libraries are a service, not a destination." That's a somewhat new point of view, but it's good news for librarians, as it increases the value of their knowledge and training. With ubiquitous access to online information, employers of all kinds have a growing need for librarians, who know how to curate journals, develop metrics, and apply taxonomies.

One way that librarians can help organizations is by using bibliometrics. Bibliometrics is the scientific and quantitative analysis of academic research, a way of measuring the authorship, publication, and use of literature as a proxy for research. Simply put, bibliometrics demonstrates the value of library journal collections and can measure an author's impact.

Some librarians working in bibliometrics focus on citation analysis. My group at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) does some of this, but we also look at what and where our authors publish. The tools we use to perform this work include Web of Science, a service for indexing scientific citations, and EndNote, a tool for creating bibliographies and performing some basic analyses.

The world of bibliometrics practitioners is a fairly small, tight-knit group, but it's growing. Those working in bibliometrics aim to evaluate the output of authors, programs, institutions, and even countries. We study areas of scientific research and assist with library tasks such as evaluating journal titles for collection development. We also aid authors in selecting journals for publication and identifying seminal research.

Getting Involved

It's not always easy to secure organizational support for bibliometrics. I became involved in it in 2012, when NOAA (where I work as a contractor) asked my group to develop a consistent method for tracking peer-reviewed articles that the agency's authors were producing. The agency also wanted us to create some basic metrics. A colleague of mine spearheaded the creation of our bibliometrics program; I assisted him with the launch (along with another librarian). When he left for another opportunity in 2014, I took over leadership of the program.

As we responded to the agency's request to track what was being published, we learned it's not too difficult to track technical reports. But it's quite different to get everyone to tell us what they're publishing in journals. The sheer volume of the latter poses a challenge.

I had learned the basics of bibliometrics in a class that was part of my MLIS program at the University of Maryland, but most of what I know about it was learned while working on this assignment. The majority of the tools that my group at NOAA used to launch our bibliometrics program are available in many libraries. Along with Web of Science and Endnote, we use some open-source software for analyzing and visualizing our work. (Open source tools available for bibliometric projects include Gephi and the Science of Science tool, Sci2; other tools are listed at the end of this article.)

The bulk of the bibliometrics work we perform, then, is accomplished with two products I've been using since I entered the profession in 2004; we're simply using them from a different vantage point and engaging different skill sets. For example, before I began working in bibliometrics, I would use Web of Science to find references to help patrons with their research. As for Endnote, it's simply a bibliography builder--I had taught some of my patrons how to use this tool, too.

I knew that a variety of reference management software programs included built-in analytics, but I had never availed myself of these diagnostic tools. With bibliometrics, I'm now using them regularly. …

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