Monday, March 12, 2012

I Heart Data

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The library is doing a survey of the faculty, asking about their use of our online resources. The survey presents them with a list of our databases and asks them to check those they use themselves and then indicate which ones they assign their students to use.

It is a follow up to a similar survey we gave in 2007 from which we gained invaluable information. Using that data, we were able to make some informed decisions. Probably the clearest example of this was dropping a subscription to a database that cost $7,600 per year – yet not one professor said they used it themselves or assigned their students to use it.

It may have met our needs at one time but something changed. Or it may be that we simply made a poor decision in signing up for it in the first place. It was difficult to get usage statistics for this particular database, but even so, data showing lack of use does not clearly explain why. Could it be due to poor marketing on our part? Is it just because its value is not obvious to students? Is it “hidden” or is it simply not what our students need to complete their assignments? We had to do a little more digging before making our decision.

Since it was a business resource, we followed up with the Business and Management faculty who confirmed that it did not fit our curriculum needs so we dropped the most expensive database we had.

Getting this kind of data helps us meet one of our central goals – to be good stewards of the university's resources. You may not be surprised to know that the library spends more on electronic resources than it does on print books and periodical subscriptions annually. Determining the return on investment (ROI) of library resources has always been a tricky thing. Various formulas and philosophies have been tested but there is no one best way to measure the value of having the right information at the right time.

We are already seeing some interesting patterns from early responses to the current survey which will end on the Ides of March (March 15th). Then we will analyze the data and determine how to use it.

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