Promoting data visualization

Librarian Shanda Hunt has been studying and is ready to share

By Allison Campbell-Jensen

Shanda Hunt
Shanda Hunt

In the Health Sciences Library, the Data + Visualization Lab will be one of the new services on offer. “It’s been a number of years that libraries have been more involved in educating users about data visualization skills and practices,” says Shanda Hunt, Public Health Liaison and Data Curation Specialist. “It fits well with other libraries activities, as we’re always working with users to be as up to date as possible with dissemination of research. Data visualizations are a part of that now.”

To better promote its use, Hunt took a professional leave to help develop workshops and a toolkit.

During her leave, Hunt consulted with a colleague at another institution, read publications by creators of data visualization services, accessed available samples from well-established programs, and took courses in design principles and Tableau. She also joined the U’s Data Storytelling SIG.

The result is the first programming for the Data + Visualization Lab.

“It feels like an unofficial kick-off,” Hunt says. “There’s a sense of excitement.”

Enrollment limits were raised and now almost 100 people are signed up for the first workshop to result from her study: “Data Visualization: Design principles and targeted messaging to effectively communicate your research.” It will be offered Oct. 2. Along with design and messaging, she will emphasize the importance of telling the story of data and approaching data visualizations with ethics and accessibility in mind. The Zoom workshop includes two activities for participants to think through their projects.

She also developed a workshop, “Introduction to Tableau,” a data visualization tool. In this Oct. 9 offering, Hunt teaches beginner-level skills such as importing data, creating queries, and exporting visualizations using this publicly available tool. In the future, she’d like to offer this in person, so that users could download Tableau and use it in real time.

Hunt also developed an extensive online resource guide, “Data Visualization Services Toolkit for Libraries.” The seven-step guide offers a variety of resources for those seeking to get started. Since posting and promoting it, it has been viewed more than 800 times.

Now others here at the U and around the country can take advantage of what she has learned.

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