Category Archives: Data

What are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)… and why you should care

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets out 17 United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition to teaching and researching sustainable development, many colleges and universities now have Offices of Sustainability. These offices are charged with building awareness about the SDGs and changing operations to support the goal of becoming net carbon-neutral campuses. Examples of these efforts include:

  • New, energy-efficient buildings may use renewable energy and have gardens on their roofs.
  • Encouraging the use of electric vehicles by installing electric charging stations, rewarding car-pooling, providing campus buses, and making the campus bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly.

Academic librarians and campus facilities engineers collaborate to make their libraries greener and eco-friendly. LEED architecture for new building design, and retrofits for existing structures, are becoming more commonplace as librarians provide input on library construction projects. According to Green Libraries, there are 42 green libraries listed in the United States and Canada, with more under construction.

Libraries support UN SDGs

Libraries address sustainable development through traditional activities and innovative SD initiatives. For example, as librarians consider the inclusive nature of their collections, they turn to independent booksellers and small presses to find more diverse titles. Academic libraries are inspecting catalog records for the use of outdated and inappropriate terminology in subject headings (e.g., replacing “Aliens” with “Noncitizens”). Some libraries are examining their archival holdings for collections to share about historical injustice, such as Syracuse University Libraries Special Collections Research Center’s new digital exhibition, A Courageous Stand: The Story of the Syracuse 8, about “a group of Black student-athletes who boycotted the University football program until it addressed their allegations of racism in 1970” (Hatem, 2021).

Academic libraries are creating research guides dealing with the SDGs, such as the University of Michigan’s effort to document resources for conducting SDG research. Other libraries develop research guides for individual sustainable development goals, such as the University of South Florida LibGuide on diversity, equity, and inclusion and the Resisting Racism Research Guide from the University of Washington. The NOVA librarians have created an antiracism guide.

Libraries as social agents for development

Libraries promote the good health and well-being of their communities (Schofield, n.d.). During the pandemic, many libraries distributed food and masks and acted as COVID testing and inoculation sites. NOVA hosted multiple vaccine clinics across the campuses and NOVA Libraries distributed free masks to students. (If you need one, just stop by a Reference or Circulation desk.)

Exemplary Practice: The Sustainable Libraries Initiative creates awareness of the library ecosystem and libraries’ role as sustainability leaders in their communities. The project offers professional development opportunities for library staff to become certified Sustainability Coordinators. The website features libraries that have found ways to reduce energy, redirect waste, and increase collaborations with other groups.

“More than 90 percent of academic institutions have affordable learning initiatives” (Rea, p. 9). At the institutional level, these initiatives include reduced tuition and greater flexibility in the time allotted to complete courses required for graduating with a degree. Libraries participate by assuring fair access to resources, eliminating fees for access to research and fines for the return of overdue material. “The coronavirus pandemic has taken a financial toll on college students and sped up the process of going fines free” (Chung, 2021). The NOVA libraries “do not currently charge fines for items that are overdue.”

During the pandemic, academic libraries were the logical choice to spearhead efforts by colleges to loan laptops, iPads, Chromebooks, and hotspots to students whose classes had shifted online. Since libraries already loan books, it was simply a matter of sourcing the technology from Information Technology (IT) departments. At NOVA, the college introduced the Laptop Loaner Program where students could request and borrow a laptop for the duration of the semester, free of charge.

NOVA and sustainable development

NOVA’s Sustainability Office coordinate’s the college’s energy, environment, and sustainability initiatives. The Office hosts a webpage of sustainability ideas.  If you’ve got an idea, email Rob Johnson, NOVA’s Director of Sustainability. The website offers a number of suggested ways in which students, faculty, and staff can volunteer for sustainable projects.

Educating for sustainability

NOVA students need not wait for an instructor to include a discussion of SDGs in their classes. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) offers free self-paced classes open to learners at any educational level. In addition to SDSN’s Global Schools Program, the SDG Academy creates and curates free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and educational materials on sustainable development and the SDGs ( or Consider it a down payment on your future.


Hatem, C. (2021, August 28). New digital exhibition features story of The Syracuse 8. Syracuse University Campus & Community.

Rea, A. (2021, October 21). LJ’s State of Academic Libraries Survey reveals challenges, priorities, Library Journal.

Schofield, A. (n.d.). Social workers and librarians—a case for why we are BFFs. ALA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion blog.

Becoming data literate

The NOVA library staff helps students learn about career options that suit their skills and interests. Over the past few years, we’ve noticed a significant number of students exploring careers involving data: Data scientist, data analyst, data architect, data engineer, and more.

As we progress towards a data economy, data literacy is becoming increasingly important in the workplace, no matter your profession. Gartner predicts that “by 2023, data literacy will become essential in driving business value.”

In the 21st Century, everyone needs a certain level of data literacy competence. Everyone consumes data (discrete stats) as they read news articles or blog posts. Sometimes data are mentioned in the text; other times presented in a chart or graph. At some point, most of us will have to compile data from multiple sources. To accomplish this, we’ll all need to master:

  • When to use mean or medium, averages or ranges, frequencies or percentages
  • How to distinguish correlation from causation
  • Determine when it’s appropriate to use a pie or bar chart, line or clustering graph
  • Where to find (and how to cite) data/statistics.
Data literacy
Related elements of data literacy.

What is data literacy?

Statistical literacy is the ability to read and interpret numeric information, whether presented in text, table, or graphic format. “Gartner defines data literacy as the ability to read, write and communicate data in context, including an understanding of data sources and constructs, analytical methods and techniques applied, and the ability to describe the use case, application and resulting value.”

Data literate individuals can find, evaluate, analyze, use, and create data, statistics, and visualizations responsibly. It’s important to not only be a good data consumer—critically assessing the data presented—but be able to communicate data by putting it into context for others. In addition to reading and working with data, one must be effective when communicating data, including responsibly reporting the results of a study and presenting these results in tables and graphics to make data digestible and easy to understand.

Data literacy includes the ability to:

  • Assess data sources and collection methods
  • Provide context for raw numbers via tables, charts, and graphs
  • Tell a story through data.

Ethical use of data includes not cherry-picking data to offer in support of a hypothesis, using a scale proportionate to the data, i.e., not manipulating the y axis of a graph.

Data literacy resources at the NOVA libraries

The books in our collection are shelved according to the Library of Congress (LC) classification scheme. All books about data are shelved using the call number QA76.9; those about statistics use QA276. If you’re not in the library and want to access an e-book on data or statistics, go to our homepage and type the call number (QA76.9 or QA276) into the search box. Our catalog will reveal the titles you have access to online via our library subscriptions. If you happen to be in another library that uses the LC classification scheme, you’ll know which shelf to peruse there too.

Additional resources

Academic librarians point students to creditable resources covering coursework delivered at their institutions. The Nelson Poynter Memorial Library, University of South Florida St. Petersburg Campus has created a Data Literacy Teaching Toolkit, replete with instructional activities and resources for faculty to use as they teach data literacy skills.

In its Science and Information Literacy Resources Guide, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) has devoted a section to Data Information Literacy Resources and Publications.  Individual institutions have created Resource Guides, such as Rutgers University Libraries Data Literacy and University Libraries, Washington University in St. Louis Data Literacies.

If you want to learn more about creating elegant and impactful visuals, take a look at the resources available on the Information is beautiful website. Another fun site to check what’s wrong with so many graphics is Junk Charts. Finally, as journalists often have to create their own charts, there’s a resource that they use, The Journalists’ ToolBox.

How data literate are you?

When reading a news article or research study, can you assess data sources and collection methods? Put your data literacy to the test at

If you could use a refresher, the video tutorials from Eastern Michigan University librarians provide an overview of data literacy and some of the elements discussed in this blog, such as:

Finally, DataProfessor created a series of data science videos in 2020 on YouTube. He also points you to other data scientist videos so that you can access “the best.” Check them out.