Towards the development of data libraries in the UK
Data has been described as 'a general term used to denote any or all facts, numbers, letters and symbols which refer to or describe an object, idea, condition, situation or other factor' (S.Dodd 1982). Clearly this is quite wide and describes much that anyone would want to analyse. The word library is derived from the Latin word liber, originally the rind between the wood and bark, the medium on which the information was recorded before the invention of paper. At one time the reader of a book had to know how to treat that particular medium, but after a while all that was needed were literacy and the right to use a library. Access software and analysis software now free the researcher from having to worry too much about the physical characteristics of machine-readable data held in a data library. In this paper I look at data libraries from each of two directions: from the point of view of those who want to use the data, and from the point of view of those who generate the data; that is, from the point of view of data analysts and data producers. this paper also includes a rough historical sketch of the development of data libraries in the academic (mostly social scientific) sector; a discussion of the importance of bibliographic control and the provision of an on-line meta-database, (data about data), and highlights the trend towards access to the data that produce statistical tables.