Tuesday, February 16, 2010

PL 5/10: Indicator politics

Filed under: 1bib, statistics — plinius @ 12:43 pm

This paper for IFLA was just submitted to the Statistics and Evaluation Section.

Indicator politics. The development of national library indicators: technical issues and political interests.

The development of new library indicators is both a political and a professional process.

Economists, sociologists and statisticians can judge the quality and relevance of indicators from a technical point of view. But the statistical systems that are established by public authorities to collect, process, publish and interpret library data are shaped by other interests as well.

The potential audience for library statistics is wide – says the IFLA Library Statistics Manifesto:  policy makers and funders, library managers and staff, actual and potential users, the media and the general public. But the crucial sentence is: Where statistics are aimed at policy makers, managers and funders, they are essential for decisions on levels of service and future strategic planning.

Since statistics influence decisions, political actors have an interest in influencing the statistics behind decisions. In well-regulated modern societies, this does not mean to falsify data. But the actors involved have a clear interest in how statistical systems are designed and used. This affects the selection of topics to be studied, the choice of indicators, the construction of indexes, the numerical and graphic presentation of data, and – not least – the way statistical information is interpreted by statistical and library agencies.

During the last two years the Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority (ABM-utvikling) has involved the library community in developing two new sets of library indicators – one for the public and one for the academic library sector. Both were released as proposals for debate and comment in 2009 and will be officially presented in the spring 2010.

The paper will analyze the interplay between professional and political interests – with this process as a case. We will concentrate on events, discussions and decisions during the last two years, but also take a look at the demands for improved statistics from the library community, which go back to the early years of the decade, and the changes made by the Central Bureau of Statistics in 2005 – after sustained lobbying by the profession.




Call for papers

… call for papers on the use of statistics for promoting sustainable progress.

Topics for submission might include papers or case studies on:

  • the Global Impact Study
  • showing progress through E-metrics use
  • how to measure access
  • how policies on statistic gathering can influence evaluation
  • how statistics can define open access
  • the role of government in collecting statistics to support open access
  • how professional organizations use statistics to promote sustainable progress
  • indicators of the impact of open access on a community


All proposals must be in before 16 February 2010.


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