Friday, June 3, 2011

Print on the Margins: Circulation Trends in Major Research Libraries

Print on the Margins: Circulation Trends in Major Research Libraries

I like to amuse myself by translating academic library research into public library terms. Something we have been struggling with here in PLS has been accurate reporting of circulation statistics, how we define "circulation," how we create the metrics, and how that data is used.

Is it more important to have "exact" numbers or numbers that suggest general trends? How can trends be extrapolated from the data available? What is the risk of publishing "negative" data, and what are the benefits? How does one find the opportunity in the trends?

I was struck by several points in this article: that the average number of checkouts per enrolled student is more valuable than net number of checkouts, that patron trends are changing dramatically (and that library worldviews are not...), and that various data points complement each other to provide a full sense of materials use (and that negative data is not a value judgement, but a piece of the puzzle, and perhaps on opportunity.)

In public library terms, how could we most effectively capture patron trends? We have a far less homogeneous set of users (homeschoolers typically checkout more items than "average" patrons.) We have multiple, very different, individual libraries. How could we - at the system level, where we are responsible for extracting the data, and generating the reports - create the metrics that would provide useful and consistent information, to all libraries, that could be used for comparative purposes and local decision making?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Open Source Libraries and the Unbearable Lightness of Active Participation

Post Evergreen Conference 2010 and mid-go live process (eyeballs deep in documentation and instructional design) I am struck over and over again (with semi-tiresome regularity) that
a) I want very much to contribute to this community
b) I wish there was some *one* person to just make a few decisions for me already
c) This one person could maybe be me, but well, by what "authority"?
d) How does one (even want to) tread the "Library Culture" and the "Geek Culture" anyway?
e) The whole idea is *exhausting*
f) This attitude - some hellbrew of enthusiasm, inertia, and random socialized mores - no doubt forms at least one stanchion in the rickety structure of modern librarianship.

Trying hard not to get maudlin and peevish...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday morning epiphany moment

I just scanned a Cory Doctorow post on BoingBoing about Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational: subjecting the "rational consumer" hypothesis to scientific scrutiny Boing Boing. On which, coincidentally, I just placed a hold. I made it to this statement:

[Ariely] then goes on to explain how companies that ask their employees to work harder for social reasons ("you're part of the team") but dismiss the employees for economic reasons ("we need to cut costs") end up in an impossible place. So do companies that ask customers to come make a purchase as a social transaction ("join the family!") but then treat the transaction after the fact as a purely economic matter ("you should have read the fine-print").

At which point my jar dropped, a bolt of lighting struck me in the third eye, and my morning's caffeine condensed behind my solar plexus. This is exactly how libraries treat their employees, and their patrons, and then have the self-delusional gall to wonder why it's so hard to find and keep engaged staff and foster passionate users. I am so glad Pioneer has such amazing delivery, because I can't wait to actually read the book.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Concept Work / Concept Workers

This eLearning Technology post reminds me of a tech support cartoon that has made the rounds at work.

It also touches on an issue that has been preoccupying me lately. When the technologies we are using in libraries are changing so rapidly, how can I as a trainer help library staff learn new skills, not as singular steps to master a particular tool/product/application, but to approach them as classes of tools/products/applications that share certain conceptual characteristics, but always evolving slightly different variations? Can I?

A particularly harrowing (as in seriously-lost-my-nerve-and-considered-becoming-a-barrista-instead harrowing) class where I tried to use the old "reference source evaluation" (a good, traditional library skill, right?) as a model for dealing with new web applications. It turned into a "why can't you tell me exactly how to use this thing for my library" grilling. Well, um, not because I'm a tongue tied fool up here, but because I don't know your context, or what you need. You know that.

An interesting product of the class was a discussion of generational differences, "head space", and the socio-cultural baggage we all bring with us to technology. I only wish I knew how to advance the discussion.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Evaluating Library Services

Attended a session presented by Beverly Choltco-Devlin of the Mid-York Library System this morning about evaluating library services, using the Evaluation Decision-Making System (EDMS) portal. While the resources located in the EDMS site are largely self-explanatory, I found a lot of food-for-thought in the presentation. But then I have analysis, planning, and evaluation on the brain these days.

Evaluation: PRE thought, not after thought
Libraries are required to do a lot of evaluation for grants, state reporting, etc. but often it seems that "evaluation" is something tacked onto the program report just to satisfy some kind of requirement and that it is a burden that has little bearing on or merit toward library work. Mostly because state requirements are irrelevant to library work? Because the recommended evaluation methods (we're looking at you, Outcomes Based Evaluation) are not always appropriate? Because the needs assessment part of the equation is almost always overlooked? Because results (other than bodies in a chair, or numbers on a chart) are also undefined? Because it's more fun and is doing "real work" to jump into the project right away?

It's frustrating. Skipping the dull, difficult planning work just seems to result in frantic scrambling later on, when the report needs to be writen or decisions made.

Two basic subjects of evaluation - finite projects and ongoing services
Most library evaluation focuses on specific projects - a grant, a program, etc. Which is of course great and necessary. But we should also be looking at evaluating ongoing services - like customer support or collection development - and internal processes - such as how we make major decisions or organize departments.

I think the internal evaluation - how we do what we do is almost entirely missing. Maybe we should be looking not just at what we do for our public, but also for ourselves. Why don't libraries look at how they do things in addition to what they do?

Two basic purposes of evaluation - management and promotion
This was one of those so obvious it was blinding points - we need evaluation for two distinct purposes, which require different types of information and different uses of information.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Google Book Downloader

I'm all over eBooks these days (even though the cool kids seem to like digital audio books) and there is an explosion of free stuff.

I'm particularly fond of Many Books which presents Project Gutenberg books in tons of different formats, including the ones I already use for downloads from the library.

Have to check out the Google Book downloader next...

Google Book Downloader

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Add this...

American Libraries Direct links to a post by Jenny Levine, the Shifted Librarian - The Shifted Librarian» Another Reason for Libraries to Make Their Sites Social - about adding plug-ins to your web content to enable visitors to easily share your content.

A related idea is actually using such gadgets yourself - to share content you like with your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and blog readers.

I use, and am rapidly becoming addicted to, AddThis in the form of a Firefox browser add-on. It's easy to download, always right there, and makes sharing any web content extremely quick and easy.

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