It is no secret that UT is a research-intensive institution.
Students and faculty frequently tackle research projects alongside the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, generating more than $17 million annually in sponsored research, according to the university's website.
To support this atmosphere of scholarship and research, UT employs research librarians with varying expertise who aid in the discovery, management, facilitation and preservation of the university's research.
“Ten years ago, the requirements to archive research data wasn't in existence,” Data Curation Librarian Chris Eaker said. “Researchers just did what they did and who knows what happened to the data after they were done with research.
“Now, they have to share data and all research universities are trying to find ways to make sure this happens.”
Eaker is one of only 50 or fewer professional librarians at the university helping students and faculty manage and share research.
As a data curation librarian, Eaker helps researchers on campus organize and archive data for research grant agencies and other research institutions around the world.
“Federal grant agencies require that faculty researchers manage and share the research data they produce on federally funded projects,” Eaker said. “My job is to help them work through all of the requirements ... Such as how to write data management plans, how to manage their research data well and how to prepare it for sharing with the wider world of science.”
Eaker organizes campus research into a data repository that can be readily accessed by other researchers for as long as the archive exists.
“We have a data repository here where we can archive and preserve research data sets and anyone can access them,” Eaker said. “When (researchers) need to archive in our data repository, I will help them prepare that data set (and) make sure they're in good shape.”
In addition to his work at the university, Eaker has traveled across the nation teaching classes on how to manage research data for other research institutions.
Eaker recently visited the University of Missouri to help their campus establish a similar research management position.
“A lot of research institutions have people similar to me or more or are adding them every month,” Eaker said. “Two weeks ago, I got back from the University of Missouri where I worked with them on how to develop the type of thing that I do.”
While campus has three libraries and thousands of faculty members within them, Eaker said he wished students and faculty were more aware of the resources available to them, including himself.
“I kind of have to keep going out and advertising myself. Most (researchers) don't know I exist yet,” Eaker said. “We have so many things in the library that I wish more people knew about.”
Eaker also cited librarians within his office who help students and faculty use “cutting edge” tools to facilitate their research and other librarians who help these researchers get published in scholarly journals.
The university also offers “subject” librarians for each concentration on campus for students or faculty conducting specific research.
Eaker serves as the architecture librarian for the university.
“I help the students and faculty find things they need - whether they need resources on a particular architect I can find that, or if faculty needs a particular book for their research I can buy that for them,” Eaker said. “Every department has someone like that that they can contact.”
“My favorite part of my job is connecting people with the information that they need,” Melanie Allen, health sciences subject librarian at UT, said. “I really enjoy helping others locate answers to their questions and discover new resources they weren’t aware of or haven’t used in a while.”
Allen provides research support for students and faculty in Nursing, Nutrition, Public Health and Audiology & Speech Pathology.
“My days consist of collaborating with faculty to provide instruction sessions on using health-related library resources and meeting with student and faculty researchers in person and online to assist with their literature research efforts,” Allen said. “I also maintain online research guides for these academic areas and order electronic and print materials to support these health sciences programs.”
Outside of her position as a subject librarian for the university, Allen serves as a trainer for the Tennessee Electronic Library, a virtual library free to all Tennessee residents.
“TEL provides great resources for learners and researchers of all ages, and it contains some great health-related resources that complement our offerings at UT Libraries,” Allen said.
“Supporting the research needs of these academic departments is the most important aspect of my job.”