In the past few months, LJ has looked at how libraries of all kinds can improve the way they serve their patrons by gathering better data on what their communities want and need. Of course, a good idea in theory can often seem out of the question for cash- and time-strapped libraries, with few having resources to spare for specialized staff or software. The good news is that much of the data librarians need to start making informed decisions that are right for their particular user base is free and already available to the public.
From learning what programs are working for patrons to being able to communicate the value of libraries to legislators and stakeholders more effectively, one thing is becoming more and more clear: having reliable data and the tools to analyze it are among the keys to a successful library system. Data can help to confirm suspicions, prove hypotheses, and offer evidence for the success of library programs. It can also dash expectations or surprise sleeping biases, forcing the rethinking or reinvention of a program that isn’t living up to its potential. Data, analyzed and contextualized, can also make it easier for librarians to tell their stories to legislators and stakeholders when the time comes to make the case for library budgets.
Among the hottest trends in collection development are tools that help libraries more efficiently crunch their numbers to make data-driven decisions. But while the tools are new, using data to make selections is not. Data-driven decisions have been on the rise in libraries for years. Anna Mickelsen, Springfield City Library, MA, explains why she uses data for collection development: “I use stats to get a look at the bigger picture of the whole library’s collection and how the different parts compare to one another. Collection decisions shouldn’t be made in a vacuum, and statistics are sometimes the only solid information I have to work with.”
This past December, LJ teamed up with Electronic Resources and Libraries (ER&L) to dive deep into the use of data-driven decision-making in academic libraries in a series of three free webcasts. The series, moderated by Bonnie Tijerina, head of e-resources and serials at Harvard Library and ER&L conference coordinator—and made possible thanks to sponsorship by ProQuest, Springer, and Innovative Interfaces—explored a range of strategies academic libraries are deploying as they use data to serve their customers more effectively.
LJ, in cooperation with ER & L (Electronic Resources & Libraries), is presenting a series of three free webcasts focusing on best practices for Data-Driven Academic Libraries. ProQuest is the presenting sponsor of the series, and LJ reached out to Mark Tullos, ProQuest’s Director of Product Management, as well as a credentialed librarian, for a vendor perspective on this essential best practice.