University of Wisconsin–Madison

Alumni Profile: Robin Rice (MA’91)

Robin Rice in her office with a view of Edinburgh Castle

Skills are important, but so is the big picture. Learn all you can about what it means to be a librarian or information professional while you are at the iSchool, because whatever the specific modes of information are at the moment, they will keep changing. That’s the difference between preparing for your next job and a life-time career.

When Robin Rice attended UW in the early nineties, email was a novelty, Gopher was there instead of the web, and computer searching was learned through paid (rationed) online sessions using dial-up databases. Wanting to learn more about computing, Robin took a student job at the Data and Program Library Service where she learned to run batch jobs on a mainframe computer and read and write data files on 9-track tapes. She became an academic data librarian after graduation.

In 1998, the University of Edinburgh was seeking an experienced data librarian and Robin had the skills they needed. Data librarianship was so new, she earned a permit to live and work in the UK. Robin is still a data librarian, but now is also Head of Research Data Support at the University of Edinburgh. She and her team of very talented people deliver a range of data services to the University’s research community.

Recently, Robin was approached by Facet Publishing to write a practical book about the work of data librarians. As a result, she co-authored The Data Librarian’s Handbook with John Southall of Oxford University, published in December 2016. The book has been positively reviewed by Library Journal and others and is considered by Facet to be their 2017 bestseller. Visit this page for further information, including a free chapter on supporting data literacy and a link to the eBook copy.

Reflecting on her time in Madison, Robin states, “Given many of my users are from the social sciences, I have always appreciated the notion instilled by then director Jane Robbins that Library and Information Studies is a social science. Just as social scientists seek to understand people’s behavior within society, librarians aspire to understand people’s pursuit and use of information, and to improve their experiences. Similarly, my receipt of the Valmai Fenster Award showed me we can be scholars as well as practitioners.”

Thank you, Robin, for sharing your interesting career path with us. We have a lovely lake view, but Edinburgh Castle just might beat it!