Sunday, October 30, 2011

PL 65/11: Early days in library statistics

Filed under: #ifla2012, IFLA, statistics — plinius @ 7:32 pm

At the IFLA Statistics and Evaluation Section we are discussing our theme for next year’s session in Helsinki.

We use Linked-in as our discussion forum. The contributions are internal to the group, but not terribly secret. And I can publish my own comments, of course.

The idea of calling for outcome studies has been brought up. I am quite sceptical to that (see below). Ugne Lipeikaite (Lithuania) suggested the alternative heading “How to survive in difficult times”.

Please estimate the number of persons in the queue ….

My response: “How to survive ….” sounds like a good heading. Real outcome (rather than output) studies hardly exist (does anybody have examples to the contrary?).

Early days

When I try to survey the body of statistical articles in our sector, it seems as if most libraries are still in the early stages of developing reasonably solid quantitative arguments relating to their production of services. The excellent work by Ray Lyons in the US and the efforts made by EBLIP shows a field that is just beginning to reason with numbers.

The standardization of statistical variables (counting in the same way) and the effort to develop indicators (measuring the same characteristics) are preconditions – not substitutes – for meaningful problem-related data analysis. We have very little of the latter, and the field is highly fragmented (limited discussion and cross-fertilization between countries, and even between library sectors in the same country).

I might go for contributions that deal with the following questions:

What are the statistical / methodological problems you (your country, your sector, your library) have to solve first – in order to improve your quantitative argumentation vis-a-vis decision makers. How do you plan to address these problems? What could your IFLA colleagues do to help you? How could you help your IFLA colleagues?


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