data-crunching librarian

Officially, my title is Electronic Resources Librarian, but lately I’ve been spending more of my time and energy on gathering and crunching data about our eresources than on anything else. It’s starting to bleed over into the print world, as well. Since we don’t have someone dedicated to managing our print journals, I’ve taken on the responsibility of directing discussions about their future, as well as gathering and providing e-only options to the selectors.

I like this work, but I’ve also been feeling a bit like my role is evolving and changing in ways I’m not entirely cognizant of, and that worries me. I came into this job without clear direction and made it my own, and even though I have a department head now, I still often feel like I’m the driver. This has both positives and negatives, and lately I’ve been wishing I could have more outside direction, in part so I don’t feel so much like I’m doing things that may not have much value to the people for whom I am doing them.

However, on Monday, something clicked. A simple comment about using SAS to analyze the print book collection use over time set all sorts of things firing away in my head. About all I know with SAS is that it’s some sort of data analysis tool, but I realized that I had come up with several of my professional goals for the next year in that moment.

For one, I want to explore whether or not I can learn and use SAS (or SPSS) effectively to analyze our collections (not just print books, as in the example above). For another, I want to explore whether or not I can learn R to more effectively visualize the data I gather.

Maybe some day down the road my title won’t be Electronic Resources Librarian anymore. Maybe some day it will be Data-Crunching Librarian.

Sounds good to me.

IL 2010: Dashboards, Data, and Decisions

[I took notes on paper because my netbook power cord was in my checked bag that SFO briefly lost on the way here. This is an edited transfer to electronic.]

presenter: Joseph Baisano

Dashboards pull information together and make it visible in one place. They need to be simple, built on existing data, but expandable.

Baisano is at SUNY Stonybrook, and they opted to go with Microsoft SharePoint 2010 to create their dashboards. The content can be made visible and editable through user permissions. Right now, their data connections include their catalog, proxy server, JCR, ERMS, and web statistics, and they are looking into using the API to pull license information from their ERMS.

In the future, they hope to use APIs from sources that provide them (Google Analytics, their ERMS, etc.) to create mashups and more on-the-fly graphs. They’re also looking at an open source alternative to SharePoint called Pentaho, which already has many of the plugins they want and comes in free and paid support flavors.

presenter: Cindi Trainor

[Trainor had significant technical difficulties with her Mac and the projector, which resulted in only 10 minutes of a slightly muddled presentation, but she had some great ideas for visualizations to share, so here’s as much as I captured of them.]

Graphs often tell us what we already know, so look at it from a different angle to learn something new. Gapminder plots data in three dimensions – comparing two components of each set over time using bubble graphs. Excel can do bubble graphs as well, but with some limitations.

In her example, Trainor showed reference transactions along the x-axis, the gate count along the y-axis, and the size of the circle represented the number of circulation transactions. Each bubble represented a campus library and each graph was for the year’s totals. By doing this, she was able to suss out some interesting trends and quirks to investigate that were hidden in the traditional line graphs.