I think we can all agree statistics are important. I collect them every day. In fact, I enjoy collecting them! It gives me a certain satisfaction to enter a research question into my tracker and log it in the knowledge bank. I like knowing how many patrons came in this week and how attendance has increased at my training sessions.
But when was the last time you sat down and analyzed those statistics? If you’re like me you may just be mindlessly collecting them to “look at in the future” and that future isn’t coming any time soon.
Every day I collect two separate sets of statistics. One is for the 9th circuit – they actually do take the time to analyze those statistics and present them to our stakeholders to continually show our value. The other stats are just for me and are specific to my branch. I collect a lot of the same data but it’s easier to pull out and analyze my branches data if I do it this way.
Today I realized I’ve been using Google forms to collect statistics for the past year and I haven’t done anything with that data. I’ve been collecting with no clear goal in mind. So, I sat down and asked myself what are my statistics even supposed to be measuring? What do I want to know about my patron’s library behavior?
This reflection boiled down into a few questions:
- When is the busiest time of the year and is my response time sufficient?
- How do I better serve chambers?
- Are patrons satisfied with my services?
As it turns out my statistics didn’t really answer these questions, but they did answer others I hadn’t thought to ask.
Statistics showed an increase in the number of research questions asked. One interesting change was that this time last year I was getting more questions from externs than law clerks. I now receive more law clerk questions than extern questions. But I can’t tell what has accounted for this change.
Hopefully my outreach?
Additionally, I’ve seen a dramatic drop-off in the number of patrons visiting the library. I expected that because I’m in the middle of a library move and the books are downstairs while I’m upstairs. This has meant that I mostly deliver what is needed to Chambers instead of having visitors swing by my office. This could also account for my increase in law clerk questions.
For some reason I’d been keeping track of the number of print books used. Through my small analysis of my own statistics I realized that isn’t even a question I want the answer to. I don’t need that data! I wasn’t even recording the individual titles of the books just the fact that a book was used. That information doesn’t matter to me – what matters is that the library has access to the resources needed to answer each research question. I now plan on formulating a way to gather this information instead.
I hope my statistical adventure now has you asking questions about the data you’re collecting and the questions you’re hoping to answer with your own stats! Are you keeping track of things just to keep track of them? Or are you making data driven decisions? I know math isn’t always a law librarians favorite thing to do but I think it’s good for all of us to become scientists or mathematicians for a day and study our patrons behavior so we can provide the best quality of service!