Friday, April 03, 2009

Silk Purses and Sows Ears? Assessing the Quality of Public Library Statistics and Making the Most of Them: PLA Spring Symposium 2009 - Morning II

Larry White

We need to tell our stories better.

Every one of the 2,000 FedEx outlets report several thousand data elements every day. It is collected electronically, compiled company-wide, and delivered to upper management with comparatives. Response lag of less than 12 hours. Took asessment and made it a value added service.

Walmart has new data server farm multi-petrabit storage. All data kept and stored for 2 years. When something is sold, a replacement item is leaving from the warehouse to replace it on the shelf.

More metrics need to be automated, and more frequently performed. If we don't figure out how to do it for ourselves, someone is going to come in and do it for us.

Ray Lyons

Challenges of Comparative Statistics

Choosing a comparable library - there is no answer.

We need to be as diligent as we can to get a satisfactory answer even if it is not as satisfactory as we want it to be.

It is also about accountability.

See book on municipal benchmarks in footnotes. (Organization is in favor of standards existing to see if you are doing ok.) If money is not attached to standards, there may not be a reason to adhere to standard.

Types of benchmarking: data comparison using peer organizations; and analyzing practices for comparable purposes; seeking most effective, best practices.

Benchmarking steps: define measures to us (who will be involved); identify appropriate partners; agree on ground rules (ethical issues); identify objectives; document profile and context; collect data; analyze data (including normalizing, e.g. per capita); report results; and then use them for change.

Is it important to think about community need and culture. Important to chose libraries which have the same service responses.

Need to both count what you want/need, but also need to report using the standard definitions so that the data can be compared. Another person noted that staff feel that what is counted is valued.

Peer measures: average individual income; college education; # women not working outside the home; school age children; geographic area

Study of what output measures that Ohio library directors used: 3 regularly: material expenditures, operating expenditures, circulation. [These are the easiest to find, and easy to define.]

Now moving to use of internet and job application sessions, use of computers.

Recommendation: at a minimum identify peer libraries:
  • service area population
  • key demographic characteristics
  • library budget
  • service responses

Some libraries are in "fertile settings" which can explain statistical performance.

Joe Matthews
Activity Based Costing

Handout based process:

Figure costs....salaries. Handout includes cost of library, which as a municipal library does not include utilities.

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