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Special Interest Group Archive: Reference 03/26/2018

These are the notes from meetings dating back to 2015.

Reference SIG, March 26th, 2019

The SIG meeting was held March 26th, from 9:30-12:30.  It was convened by Sharon Fetters from St. Thomas Aquinas College. This meeting’s topic was statistics. The group discussed their methods for statistical tracking and how they analyze their results, and debated the importance of stats in general.

The SIG was started with the “Whodunnit Icebreaker”. Everyone introduced themselves, and wrote down something interesting / unique about themselves on a notecard. Everyone exchanged cards at random and tried to guess who wrote it.

Part 1: Statistics Tracking

The group had an open discussion on what each library was doing at their library in regards to statistics tracking. Questions asked were: what are you doing in your library? What information are you keeping? How do you determine what information is important to track? What systems are you using to track? There was a wide variation among the group in regards to methods and what was being recorded. These included:

  • Using desktracker at the reference desk to track everything interaction (mostly technology assistance.)  
  • Using a post-it at the front desk to keep a tally of how many questions are received.
  • Tracking only reference questions. All general / technology / directional questions are handled by circ staff. They track things like the nature / content of the question, who asked it (professor student, etc.), and the librarian's answer.  This helps libraries to see patterns and get an idea of what people are asking.
  • Nothing is really kept track of at the library. The only stats that are really looked at are the circulation stats. People don’t understand how integral it is to justify your existence as a department / functional library.   
  • Using paper forms to track questions in different categories (directional, reference, etc.) Circ students have smaller desks all throughout the library. Students then do data entry and put the information from the paper forms into the library's tracking system. They try to take into account the depth of each interaction.
  • Bad data can cause issues -> one college forced to weed because circ stats weren’t good. After weeding starting tracking google sheets.
  • In many instances, people kept personal stats to be able to track growth and justify their work if needed. 
  • Many also found there was some resistance to changing  methods.

Part 2: Analyzing Results

The group next talked about analyzing results. Questions asked were: do you get to see the results? What can you interpret from them? Do you notice any trends? Do the results get reported?

  • Don’t get to see them, other than what ends up in the annual report. Can’t really see if things are improving if they are behind the scenes (ie if you are changing).
  • Give stats when they are asked for (private statistics). Pretty steady – occasionally an uptick.
  • Librarians are assigned certain areas in the library to manage the statistics on. This helps librarians to see which areas need attention or more funding.
  • See nothing for general library stats. This can be a challenge because libraries are always having funding issues, and they need to be able to justify their budgetary needs. However, stats can also be interpreted differently based on who you’re sharing them with. The person has to be able to extrapolate from the data and understand, on a deeper level, what it represents and says about the library.  
  • People advertise but there still is not a lot of awareness about what libraries do. Even at a library that could afford things like ads, billboards, etc., they still encountered people who had no idea what the library does.
  • Always need to justify our existence. Pop culture doesn’t help our image. There is always the ideale of libraries as a quiet space, when in reality it varies, and is often more of a community space. “It must be nice to read all day”--always have to advocate for yourself and what you’re doing.
  • Survey results can be a great opportunity to see what people want. When students indicated they wanted 24/7 access to a library, it was advertised as: “you asked for this, now we’re doing it.”

What does research say?

  • Most data is university-based.
  • They find that data is really important to stakeholders.
  • However, the things we’re gathering stats on now aren’t always quite as relevant.
  • We need new statistics. From the IFLA Library Statistics Manifesto— “libraries have assumed new responsibilities in a changing information world; they need new statistics for managing and promoting these tasks.”
  • Some of the most popular systems being used to track data are Excel, google sheets, google forms, LRS, compendium, and LibQual+ .  

Next Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for September 24th, 2019

Southeastern NY Library Resources Council
21 South Elting Corners Road | Highland, NY 12528
Phone: (845) 883-9065