Thursday, July 06, 2006


Blog Post #3 (Counting Up)

Being a person who formerly hated math, it should come as a surprise that I adore statistics--especially in Library Land. I love knowing which books have circulated, and which ones have been collecting dust on the shelf for three years. I love the challenge of balancing the immediate needs of a community versus what it might look like in five years. Because libraries have begun to analyze data, it will help us remain relevant to the communities we serve. Although it is still difficult to generate these reports ourselves, as the technology changes, the ways in which we can generate reports will improve as well.

As reporting evolves, we will be able to think more about which statistics will be the most helpful. In fact, I saw this post from Laurie the Librarian, a reference librarian at Yukon College Library who states, "Something I know I'm doing differently now is I'm making direct correlations between the increase in full-text articles in databases to the decreasing rate of interlibrary loans. For my boss and co-workers, we are seeing how important it is to make sure students know about how to use the full-text options in the databases. For our Senior Managers, they can see the financial savings in investing in full-text databases 'cause interlibrary loaning can actually cost us more."

Interestingly enough, as much as I think statistics can help, it is important to balance the time spent collecting the statistics (especially if it means manually inputting data), with the impact of this information on the organization. If highly skilled employees are the ones performing the data entry functions, then time is being taken away from more productive tasks. Yet, those same employees are probably the ones who are most comfortable using the technology. What a dilemma! So, my point is that statistics should not be blindly collected--the data needs to serve the community/library.

Speaking of statistics, I found this amazing link that might help any of you who use stats to support your users. Here is a wild site called The Researching Librarian. I checked it out, and apparently, it's won a ton of awards. It's maintained by Beth Ashmore and it looks really helpful.

OK. I think I rambled on enough. It's time to enter my own data!

Statistics are a tool that I realize are important and can have an impact, but still have no clue how to utilize. I'm going to have to reread your post and finally figure out the pros, cons (and grey areas) of statistics.
Opposite of you, I really liked math. When I first figured out with my automation system how to look at the statistics, I was in librarian heaven! I was showing anyone and everyone at the school. Turns out, I was the only one who cared! I do think that we need to not rely purely on statistical information, since technology is not always 100%. I have students that check out a book and return it later that day because they know I'm monitoring how many books they've checked out. Sometimes we just need to take surveys by the patrons I think.
We do seem to be the only ones who care about statistics. At my job, we have been keeping tabs on the number of times students access our online databases. We have seen steady growth and amazing results- the highest numbers in the system actually, but there has been no ticker tape parade, no party, not even a pat on the back. We must be doing something right to reach such numbers, but I think to gain attention to the numbers, we have to present our data in a different way- such as rewarding the teachers for implementing the use of the databases in lessons. Maybe we need to turn the tables to the community so they feel more involved and connected with the library.
Thanks for your comments, guys!
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