Library Builds Campus-Wide Data Fluency

UCLA Library constantly evolves services to keep pace with technological innovation. Today, as big data becomes as much a part of the humanities as the sciences, the Library’s Data Science Center (DSC) is building capacity for data fluency, foundational coding skills, and education across campus. 


“As the exponential growth of data changes the nature of research and publishing, the Library is quickly becoming the campus hub for data science training and innovation,” said Todd Grappone, associate university librarian for digital initiatives and information technology. 


The Library’s data science experts bridge the data fluency gap by providing support for data-intensive scholarship at every stage, from research and data management plans all the way through to data analysis, preservation, and publication. At the same time, the Library hosts a variety of well-described data for research use, including some 560,000 hours of audio and video, 140 million images, and 4.7 billion words’ worth of text. DSC has assisted researchers in applying natural language processing and machine learning techniques to analyze this data, including extraction and visualization of topics from the oral history collection and applying modern tools and techniques to extract and create metadata from ancient Buddhist texts.


Recent donations from Norman Powell are helping the Library help researchers solve these complex data problems. Last year, the Library purchased a deep learning machine for complicated data crunching and computations. Now, the DSC is hiring a Data Consulting Team of four students to work with DSC staff to assist scholars from all disciplines on campus. Like other students who work in the Library, these students will gain valuable career experience in data science. 


To further improve campus capacities for working with data in various formats, the DSC designs and teaches curricula including Geospatial Information Systems (GIS), R programming, and other software and data topics. One recent partnership was with UCLA professor Kelly Lytle Hernández for a course mapping the fiscal and human costs of mass incarceration in Los Angeles. 


“The Library’s Data Science team co-taught the seminar,” said Hernández, a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellow. “To be honest, the Data Science team did the heavy lifting, providing weekly lectures on GIS and programming, namely R. I could not have taught the course without them.”


To learn more about opportunities to advance Data Science teaching and learning at UCLA Library, please contact UCLA Library Development at 310.206.8526 or