Shell Australia’s Technical Librarians successfully combine the roles of the traditional special librarian and the new data librarian. They are a vital part of Shell Australia’s multidisciplinary Subsurface and Wells Technical Data Management team, working collaboratively with colleagues across data management, geoscience and information technology (IT) disciplines to ensure the increasing volume, velocity, and variety of the company’s geoscientific technical data – very big data - is managed efficiently.
Shell Australia’s Technical Librarians were key stakeholders in a recent project to review and improve the existing databases and processes used to manage Shell Australia’s geophysical data. Geophysical data is challenging to manage; it is complex “big” data and defies traditional cataloguing. Shell Australia holds petabytes of geophysical data in a variety of file formats, on a wide variety of media, in many versions - from raw acquisition data, through to processed and interpretive data. During the project the Technical Librarians worked closely with geophysicists, geophysical data analysts, IT support specialists and database architects. Their contributions as library and information science (LIS) professionals included providing advice on required metadata fields, developing controlled vocabularies and naming conventions, defining required search parameters, identifying opportunities for added functionalities, undertaking database testing and providing feedback, populating the database, and developing workflow procedures. The Technical Librarians also brought a long-term perspective to the review of data management tools and processes, essential for the preservation of Shell Australia’s valuable geophysical data. Engagement with colleagues outside the LIS profession provided the Technical Librarians with an opportunity to learn more about geophysical data and its lifecycle.
This cross-disciplinary engagement resulted in the implementation of tools and processes that provide improved metadata capture, clearer connections between projects and data, improved search functionality, better data management, and stronger relationships with stakeholders.
The professional skills of the technical librarian remain relevant and valuable in an era of big data, however cross-disciplinary collaboration with stakeholders is essential to communicate this value and develop additional data management skills.
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