Plinius

Friday, April 12, 2013

PL 5/13: Statistics workshop in South Africa

Filed under: statistics — plinius @ 1:21 pm

African libraries need statistics to plan their work and to promote their standing.

Picture: group work at the 2012 LATINA training course, at Makerere University Library.

This year The International Association of Academic and Technical Libraries meets in Cape Town. The convener, Elisha Chiware, is the Director of Cape Peninsula University of Technology Libraries. After the main IATUL conference (April 14-18) there will be a workshop on library statistics to

  • encourage the collection of statistics for benchmarking,
  • improve the collection of statistics in African libraries,
  • develop a basis for regional cooperation and activity
  • and to create an awareness of the various options available

Elisha was also the regional expert from Africa when IFLA developed guidelines for the Statistics for Advocacy training course, at a workshop in the Hague in late 2009.

Improving library statistics is mainly a matter of organizational development. The technical aspects of statistics play a part, but it is the institutional changes that represent the main challenges. The organizational processes are very well described in Joan Rapp’s paper on Quality assurance at the University of Cape Town Libraries.

In Cape Town, Helen Livingston (University Librarian, University of South Australia) will present the Australian experience. I will look at regional and global initiatives.
My three sessions cover three different aspects of the subject:

  • the first, on statistical literacy, looks inward. It has to do with the skills and practices of librarians
  • the second, on statistical advocacy, looks outward. It has to do with the defence, marketing and promotion of libraries
  • the third, on statistical trends, looks forward. It has to do with the role of libraries in a knowledge based economy.

A tool for change
All three share a common basis, however. My three axioms are:

  • Statistics is a tool for change.
  • To work with statistics is to argue with numbers.
  • Change must come from below

This implies

  • If you don’t want change, stay away from statistics.
  • If you don’t want discussions, stay away from statistics.
  • If your staff wants stability, you have a problem.

Change can be encouraged at the top, but must be realized at the bottom. That’s the way the world works.

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