The Special Libraries Association (SLA), an international association for library professionals founded more than 100 years ago, honored ITS Transportation Librarian Kendra K. Levine with its “Rising Star” award earlier this month.
The organization’s Rising Star awards are presented annually to five relatively new, young SLA members “who show exceptional promise of leadership and contribution to the association and profession.”
Levine began her career as a student employee in the Transportation Library in 2004 and became circulation manager in 2005. While studying for a dual master's degree in library science and information systems, she continued to work at the library—and joined the SLA.
"Kendra brings positivity, enthusiasm, humor and spunk to every meeting I have attended with her," wrote Elaine M. Lasda Bergman, President of the Academic and Special Libraries Section of the New York Library Asssociation and SLA member. "She is the type of young librarian we need to attract in our organization. Kendra has been a leader right out of the gate in her place of employment, transportation organizations, and SLA."
Armed with her dual degrees, in 2008 Levine helped manage the Transportation Library’s physical collection while working with faculty, students and researchers to find data and other materials that are more likely now to be available online than on library shelves.
Levine has been a strong proponent of developing better data management plans, not only among transportation researchers at Berkeley but among transportation agencies.
Good data management plans spell out what data are being collected, how it’s being collected, where it is being placed, and how it can be accessed and archived, she explained.
“Already, some federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, require comprehensive data management plans for funding projects. Eventually, every federally-funded program could require such a plan. So it’s really important that our researchers and research centers are aware of this.”
In transportation, however, data management is still in its infancy. Some fields, such as chemistry and astrophysics, have made solid gains in this area, but Levine notes that transportation data are much trickier. There are privacy issues associated with some data that are collected, such as travel surveys. And in the engineering field there are patent issues. There are proprietary issues with freight and aviation data where companies don’t want competitors to have access to the information they gather.
“What I really like doing is working through all these issues to try to come up with a sustainable policy,” Levine said.
Hand in hand with better data management is the growing ability--and pressure--to make data more open and available, something Levine says is philosophically appealing.
For the past five years she has participated in sessions at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting, where she has trumpeted the virtues of promoting both better data management and greater openness.
“In working with transportation data we need to have standards, we need to be sharing data, and we need to make it open,” she said.
While researchers are understandably guarded about sharing information, Levine points out that data that isn’t important to a particular researcher’s work, could be very important to another researcher bent on pushing a different area of research forward. Making that available would be one place to start.
At the January 2013 annual meeting, Levine presented an open data poster session.
“And that was the first time those words were ever together in the program,” she said.
But it probably won’t be the last.
“Everyone always wants more data,” said Levine.
In the meantime, Berkeley’s Transportation Library is already hard at work at archiving and retaining transportation data, probably the only such library tackling this subject area.
“It’s a lot of work. It’s challenging, but we feel it’s our responsibility.”