dreaming about the future of data in libraries

I spent most of the past two months downloading, massaging, and uploading to our ERMS a wide variety of COUNTER and non-COUNTER statistics. At times it is mind-numbing work, but taken in small doses, it’s interesting stuff.

The reference librarians make most of the purchasing decisions and deliver instruction to students and faculty on the library’s resources, but in the end, it’s the research needs of the students and faculty that dictate what they use. Then, every year, I get to look at what little information we have about their research choices.

Sometimes I’ll look at a journal title and wonder who in the world would want to read anything from that, but as it turns out, quite a number of someones (or maybe just one highly literate researcher) have read it in the past year.

Depending on the journal focus, it may be easy to identify where we need to beef up our resources based on high use, but for the more general things, I wish we had more detail about the use. Maybe not article-level, but perhaps a tag cloud — or something in that vein — pulled together from keywords or index headings. There’s so much more data floating around out there that could assist in collection development that we don’t have access to.

And then I think about the time it takes me to gather the data we have, not to mention the time it takes to analyze it, and I’m secretly relieved that’s all there is.

But, maybe someday when our ERMS have CRM-like data analysis tools and I’m not doing it all manually using Excel spreadsheets… Maybe then I’ll be ready to delve deeper into what exactly our students and faculty are using to meet their research needs.