Lies, damned lies and statistics

First thing Monday morning I work on the library stats for the following week.  This is a very unsophisticated process – MPOW is so small that I keep all the stats by hand on a bit of paper tucked in beside the CPU on my desk and transfer the gatepost markings to a spreadsheet Monday morning.  Open the LM database, get loans stats for the previous week, add to spreadsheet and my work is done.  It takes about 5 minutes out of my life each week (and most of that is waiting for the LM database to fire up).

It was interesting today to read Virtually a Librarian’s comments about metrics from her Sunday posting, that reflected on the need to actually evaluate all these statistics we keep.  I know why I am keeping these stats (and it’s not just because I’m a librarian and it’s built into me).  I’m trying to build up a picture of a library service.  Our library has only been in full time existence since February when I started here.  Before that, it was a 2 day a week service and operated without any sort of plan or vision or idea about how it was to develop or progress.  The student population here is projected to steadily increase over the next few years and the library has to be able to be part of that ‘going forward’ thing.

I keep stats because without them, no-one has any idea how (or even if) students and staff are using the library.  It is almost as if our library just appeared out of thin air in February and very few people who matter even know we’re here.  I use this article on ‘Starting a Special Library from Scratch’ from the University of Southern Carolina as a guide.  Technically I run an academic library of sorts as this is a higher education institution, but we have so many synergies with Specials that this is a more useful approach for me to follow.

However, the Virtual Librarian’s article has (again!) given me food for thought – perhaps it’s time to have another look at my stats…..

image: All the statistics in the world can’t measure the warmth of a smile by N-O-M-A-D via flickr
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