Friday, May 4, 2012

PL 20/12: Academic libraries

Filed under: statistics — plinius @ 10:12 pm

Which indicators do academic libraries use when they present their activities on the web?

Oslo University

In their annual reports, Oslo University Library includes a series of tables and diagrams. These must be the result of deliberate choice. They are the statistics that the library have selected in order to present itself to the world.

The annual report for 2011 contains the following statistical components.

Information skills

Table with

  • Number of participants
  • Number of teaching hours
  • Number of courses

for the last six years (2006-2011). Graph of absolute numbers. No indicators
Institutional repository

DUO statistics. Table with stock and growth numbers for

  • MA theses
  • PhD theses
  • Articles
  • Other documents
  • SUM

for the last three years. Also total downloads for 2010 and 2011. No indicators


Number of staff by faculty

  • UHS
  • UMED
  • UJUR
  • DigiT/Admin
  • SUM

for the last ten years. Graph of absolute numbers. No indicators.


Number of

  • printed books
  • e-books

for the last six years. Pie diagram for 2011.

Number of

  • current printed periodicals
  • currennt electronic periodicals

for the last six years. Pie diagram for 2011.


Media purchase costs for

  • printed resources
  • electronic resources

for the last six years. Pie diagram for 2011.

Price increases

  • Estimated increase in the price of periodicals
  • Actual compensation for the increase

for the last six years. Time series chart.

Use of collections

Table showing the number of

  • Book loans
  • Downloads of periodicals
  • Downloads of books

for the last six years

The most prominent feature of this report is the absence of genuine statistical indicators. Tables and diagrams mainly show the “raw”, unprocessed variables.

  1. The table on information training, to take an example, does not relate the number of participants to the number of students, or the number of teaching hours to the size of the staff.
  2. The statistics on staff and on costs show that the library is under heavy economic pressure. The staff was reduced from 196 persons (FTEs) in 2002 to 170 in 2011. The library currently operates with a deficit. To achieve economic balance in 2015, staff must be cut to 148.
  3. The last table and diagram show that the increased cost of periodicals is only partly covered by the compensation included in the budget.

On the page Diagrams we compare three charts from the Annual Report 2011 with three possible alternatives.

Bergen University

In Bergen, on the West Coast, we finally meet a library that takes indicators seriously. In Norway, Bergen University has played a leading role in the use of data for research since the 1970s.  The Wittgenstein Archives at the University of Bergen are famous. One of Europe’s largest research archives, the  Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD), is located in Bergen.
From a statistical point of view the 2010 Annual Report from Bergen University Library (in Norwegian) is the most detailed, throrough and comprehensive presentation of library activities I have seen. The main body of the report contains an impressive amount of statistical information in its 42 tables and 36 diagrams. But the most interesting tables are placed at the front, at the beginning of the chapter on results, and at the very back, after the bibliography.

The first table the reader meets contains no indicators. It shows the absolute number of

  • Physical loans
  • Fulltext document downloads
  • Visits
  • Staff years (FTE)
  • Total expenses
  • Accessions of physical media
  • Accessions of digital media
  • Current periodical subscriptions
  • Electronic subscriptions
  • Stocks
  • Cataloguing

and compares 2010 with the previous year. The format must be aimed at university managers and other powerful people who don’t have time to study the following forty pages, which are densely packed with tables and diagrams.

The last table in the report presents the values of sixteen indicators from the ABM recommendation for the years 2003-2010. Here I reproduce the content in Tables 1-3. I also use the occasion to produce three graphs based on some of the information, as Charts 1-3.

University of Trondheim

The University of Trondheim (NTNU) has a strong technological orientation. The letters stand for Norsk Teknisk-Naturvitenskapelig Universitet, which translates into the Norwegian University of Science and Technology). The 2010 Annual Report from the NTNU Library is quite brief (14 pp), but clear, forceful and visually attractive.

The report devotes three pages to library statistics. There is only one table, which shows

  • Staff size (FTE)
  • Budget
  • Collection size
  • The number of visitors
  • The number of loans
  • The number of seats/work spaces
  • The number of training hours offered

for the last three years (2008-10). The five diagrams present

  1. The change in staff from 2008 till 2010 as a two-dimensional bar chart
  2. The sector distribution of the budget – 2D pie chart
  3. The number of loans, downloads and BIBSYS searches in 2008, 2009 AND 2010 – 2D bar chart
  4. The most frequently used electronic periodicals – 3D bar chart
  5. The most frequently used databases – 3D bar chart

Indicators are not used or mentioned at all.

There is one small exception. In a comment to diagram 5 the report refers to ScienceDirect as the most frequently uszed database – and mentions that the average download from this base costs thirty Norwegian crowns. But this is left as an isolated fact. There are no comparisons with average download prices from other suppliers.

Additional institutions

Oslo and Akershus

Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (HiOA) is the largest polytechnic and the fourth largest higher education institution in the public sector. The university colleges in Oslo and Akershus fused in 2011. The new institution has close to fifteen thousand students. Its 2010 Annual Report is fairly brief (16 pp.), but richly equipped with small statistical tables – more than one per page. Only two indicators are reported

  • the share of total loans supplied by own collection
  • number of downloaded articles per user


The University of Agder, with campuses in several towns. is located on the South Coast of Norway. It has about eight thousand five hundred students, which makes it the fourth largest university in Norway. The library director, Else-Margrethe Bredland, made several statistical points in her introduction to the 2010 Annual Report:

  • The library web site is the most heavily used part of the university web. The library home page had 135.000 unique visitorts, an increase of 18% since 2009
  •  Social media: last autumn our new Facebook page gained 400 friends 
  • Great increase in the use of digital sources. Our users downloaded 17% more articles in 2010 – an average of 13 articles per primary user at a cost of 27 NOK per 
  • Increasing focus on digital media: 66% of our media budget used for this in 2010, against 49% in 2009
  • Major effort in order to reach the university’s of storing 30% of all published research articles in  Agder University Research Archive (AURA)

The report itself (18 pp.) has a good mix of text, tables, graphs and photos. The use of indicators is very limited, however.


Tromsø, which is located well above the Arctic Circle, is the biggest city in Northern Norway. It has a population of about seventy thousand. The University of Tromsø, with eight thousand students, is now the fifth largest university in Norway.  At the web site there is no annual report from the library. Instead I refer to the 2011 Annual Plan, which covers the same range of topics.  The plan includes much numerical information, but focuses on staff and budget variables. The proposed ABM indicators are not part of the argument.


As a small experiment I am publishing the paper Indicators without customers, for our satellite conference in Turku, as a series of blog posts.



  1. PL 15/12: Top-down or bottom-up?.
  2. PL 16/12: Change work.
  3. PL 17/12: Public library indicators.
  4. PL 18/12: Big public libraries.

1 Comment »

  1. […] PL 20/12: Academic libraries […]

    Pingback by PL 22/12: NPM from below « Plinius — Sunday, May 6, 2012 @ 9:21 am

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