Image of Rachel ChandlerOur November Instructor Spotlight is Rachel Chandler. Rachel is teaching three classes this month:

How to Read Scholarly Papers for Librarians on Nov. 7, 2 - 3 p.m. EST
Data Visualization for Librarians 1: Getting Started on Nov. 8, 2 - 3:30 p.m. EST
Data Visualization for Librarians 2: Beyond the Basics on Nov. 29, 2 - 3:30 p.m. EST

Rachel Chandler is the Science and Data Visualization Librarian at Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA. She is a former medical illustrator with a background in Biology and Chemistry. She is lover of all things related to science and art.

We recently chatted with Rachel as part of our Instructor Spotlight Series to learn more about her upcoming classes. 

Can you tell us a little bit about the scholarly papers for librarians session that you will be teaching? What was the genesis or need that prompted this session?

RC: As an academic librarian, a big part of what I do is teach students what scholarly sources are, how to interpret them and where to find them. But this isn’t just the purview of academic librarians. An information professional needs to have locating and interpreting scholarly sources as part of their skill set. Scholarly papers are a less familiar and less accessible type of information to most patrons, but ones that can carry more credibility depending on the patron’s need, so it is important for librarians to be generalist at the subject matter but experts at the locating of scholarly sources. Scholarly papers can be intimidating, especially when you are a librarian and patrons expect you to have all the answers! Even if you don’t have the technical or subject matter expertise, armed with the knowledge about the scholarly publication process and aspects all scholarly papers share, a librarian can confidently assist patrons as an information expert. I hope to offer some strategies for locating and accessing scholarly sources for librarians who may not have many academic journals in their collections or have access to academic databases.

How do scholarly papers differ from other types of materials?

RC: Scholarly papers are written by scholars, for scholars. They are written by experts in technical language and are thoroughly vetted in the publication process, often including peer-review. It is important for librarians to be able to understand what makes a scholarly paper, be able to find scholarly papers, and know when patrons need to be using a scholarly paper as a source. Scholarly papers differ from other types of material because of their technical language, lack of background or explanatory information, and greater barriers to access. They are usually published in academic journals with hefty subscription fees. There are also different types of scholarly papers in academic journals, and the different types fall in different places on the credibility continuum. A literature review, an original research article, and a letter to the editor all have different uses and different amounts of credibility. Hopefully with my session librarians can be confident about all aspects of scholarly papers and be able to support patrons who need to find and use them. No subject matter expertise required!

Later in November, you are teaching a series of sessions on data visualization. Can you share a little teaser for those sessions?

RC: Being able to understand and work with data is fast becoming a vital skill in our age of limitless information and discovery. Librarians are expected to be able to help patrons find and access data, and more and more libraries are providing data services. In addition, data literacy presents another facet of information literacy that is essential when misinformation is everpresent. Data visualizations are also one of the easiest ways to manipulate and falsely present information, and I will cover how to recognize misleading data visualizations and how to avoid creating misleading visualizations. In these two sessions, I first hope to introduce data and data visualization with absolutely no experience in the area required but also push further and build some skills for visualizing data and for supporting patrons who are doing data visualization.

Are there any data visualizations tools you would recommend attendees look into before the session? What are your favorite data visualization tools?

RC: Data visualization is a trendy topic! There are so many tools for creating data visualizations that cater to all kinds of needs and preferences. For the math-brained or experienced coders, programs like Microsoft Excel and R can be used for data analysis and visualization. For those of a more artistic inclination, Adobe programs like Illustrator and InDesign are ideal for making infographics. Google has free programs like Looker Studio (formerly Data Studio) and Google Charts. Tableau is a program I teach at GSU where it is easy to create beautiful visualizations and interactive dashboards without having to code or input formulas. I used to be a medical illustrator, so using Adobe products is my forte. But lately I have been loving Tableau! In the second session, I hope to comprehensively cover the tools that can be used and suggestions for providing library support for them. But I also hope to cover some design concepts and data visualization information so librarians can visualize their own data. I will likely use Tableau as an example, so I recommend looking into it. Tableau Public is free to download and use at

For fun, is there anything you have been reading, watching or listening to lately that you would like to share?

RC: Not to be that cliché librarian, but reading fiction is my hobby! I am a fan of classics, and I recently started the translation of The Brothers Karamazov by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. I also recently finished Trieste by Daša Drndić, and now want to read everything else she has written. Last weekend I went to see Martin Scorsese’s new movie Killers of the Flower Moon. Lily Gladstone as fantastic in it. And I recommend the nonfiction book by David Grann that it is based on as well.