They have sent a call for papers and I am trying my luck with this proposal:
How much is much? Developing and interpreting national library visitor statistics
On January 16, 2008, the British Library presented an important new report on user behaviour in the virtual environment. The Director, Dame Lynne Brindley, described her institution as follows: “We are a trusted and independent source, both in cyberspace and through our vast printed collections, with more than 67 million hits on our website in the past 12 months and 500,000 readers passing through our doors every year.”
The emphasis on visits – both physical and virtual – rather than on collections or loans, is highly interesting. The BL numbers are obviously high, but it is impossible to interpret them without a scale of measurement. In other words: what does half a million physical visits and 67 million hits tell us about the library? What do the numbers mean? And how do these indicators compare with other measures of virtual and physical traffic?
We argue that national libraries, with their economic and intellectual resources, should take a leading role in implementing this type of user statistics. This will allow us to understand the interaction between users and libraries at a deeper level than before. With regard to the general public, national libraries are likely to play a much more active role on the web than in the physical world. The National Library of Norway plans to digitalize the totality of its holdings within the next ten years. In this context, monitoring virtual use is crucial.
The field of visitor statistics is currently in a state of flux. The simple (or simplistic) measures that were used in the past (no. of physical visits, no. of page hits) are being replaced by measures that reveal the activities undertaken by the visitors as they move around in the physical (or virtual) space. At the moment, the study of user behaviour is more advanced in the commercial than in the public sphere. But the relevant methods are basically the same.
The proposed paper will present, discuss and compare a number of different indicators that are – or could be – used to measure library traffic. Available data on national library visitor statistics in Norway after 2000 will be presented and related to other aspects of national library activity. The statistics will be compared with visitor data from large academic libraries, from important museums and from the most frequently visited web sites in the country (as measured by TNS Metrix, the market leader in the field of web traffic analysis).
Some comparable data from Nordic and European national libraries will also be included.
The session will be composed of invited papers and selections from this call. There will be two invited papers, one covering the current work being carried out in ISO on performance indicators for national libraries, the other addressing the impact and quality of national libraries or university libraries in research and learning.
It is planned to illustrate these topics by case examples on implementation of indicators and quality measurement, including examples of measurement of online services, followed by a panel discussion on experiences and plans.
Proposals are therefore invited for short discussion papers addressing the theme: “Ensuring quality in national libraries: performance measures and quality evaluation supporting cultural heritage and research.”
The paper was accepted [February 29].