Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Behind the Scenes of Statistics (a general overview)

OK. It has been nearly 5 months since my last post. I'm not promising anything, but in the spirit of openness and greater access, I'll give this another try.

Outside of regular "ILS" duties (see previous post), I also coordinate many of the statistics that we produce. Some statistics can be pulled directly from the ILS, such as circulation, user, catalog-type statistics. How many items do we have in the library? I can pull that up pretty quickly. How many items in each library? Can do. How many items in a certain location that have had no activity in the past 3 years? No problem.

But there are also a lot of statistics that do not come from the ILS. They come from you. How many people visited the library? How many reference questions did they ask? These are a bit harder to answer. These statistics require staff to measure usage and submit various forms. I have been exploring the idea of converting some of these forms to "webforms". Much like "online job applications" (which we love so much), you could enter data online with drop-down menus and text boxes. Instead of worrying about using the correct form and sending attachments to various people, you could enter the data online and click submit and be done with it. And computer usage statistics will soon be a lot easier for everyone as the automated computer sign-up allows for some detailed reporting.

So what do we do with these stats once we've collected them? Some are used to measure our own Goals and Objectives. This report is produced by the 5th of each month. We also produce Quarterly and Annual statistic reports. We also use these statistics for various surveys we receive throughout the year. Currently, I am working on the annual Tennessee public library statistics report. And we use these statistics to assist with any grant proposals or to provide answers to questions from other government offices or media.

If you have any questions about our statistics, please let me know and I'll see what I can find.

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