Monitoring the Pulse: Data-Driven Collection Management: The More Specifically Librarians Can Organize and Manage Circulation Data, the More They Can Hone Collection Development and Strategize to Improve Usage

By Meyer, Jeffrey | Computers in Libraries, July-August 2015 | Go to article overview

Monitoring the Pulse: Data-Driven Collection Management: The More Specifically Librarians Can Organize and Manage Circulation Data, the More They Can Hone Collection Development and Strategize to Improve Usage


Meyer, Jeffrey, Computers in Libraries


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Libraries have a definite, measurable pulse: circulation statistics. When circulation increases, the library is objectively healthy. When circulation decreases, the library needs a checkup. Fortunately, librarians today have the software tools to accurately measure and quantify a library's health. Circulation figures are often available through a library's automation software, and spreadsheet programs--such as Microsoft's Excel-allow librarians to chart and visualize this data.

The skills necessary to read the circulation pulse are not overly complicated, and the tasks are not unnecessarily time-consuming. Similar to many skills, data management, at first, seems complicated or highly specialized, but after the user becomes familiar with the software, the tasks reveal themselves to be remarkably simple. The image in Figure 1 appears complicated, but it is merely data that has been pulled from library automation software and placed into an Excel spreadsheet. Library automation systems often allow for circulation data to be exported into an .xls file, which is an Excel file. Excel is your friend. This program allows librarians to monitor the library's pulse.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Data, Data, Data

Excel is to numbers what Word is to letters. Librarians have everything to gain by getting cozy with Excel. The I software gives librarians the ability to really see what is going on in the library. It allows for a comprehensive examination of circulation, giving librarians an insight into specific usage trends over specific periods of time.

It is important to monitor generalities in library circulation, but it is even more helpful to see specific collection circulations. General concepts (such as "Library circulation is up" or "Library circulation is down") are useful for understanding basic usage. But there are--beneath this single, general dimension--many different layers of specific information that better reveal library usage. For instance, what materials are "up" or "down"? How are children's chapter books circulations compared to adult fiction? Are graphic novel circulations rising fast enough to warrant expansion? The more specifically librarians can organize and manage circulation data, the more they can hone collection development and strategize to improve usage.

Libraries are made up of many different material collections. Each collection's circulation--no matter its size--should be monitored. For instance, a children's graphic novel collection may be very small, but its circulation might be very high. One might find that a collection of 200 children's graphic novels is circulating more than 100 materials each month. It may be time to acquire more children's graphic novels. Identifying high-interest small collections can tip the scale in favor of increased overall circulations.

Data management allows librarians to see exactly what is circulating during specific periods of time. A librarian who keeps an Excel spreadsheet--updated each month and sorted by material type--can easily evaluate how much (or little) specific collections are circulating. Let's examine the DVD collection between July 2012 and February 2015. We simply open our spreadsheet and highlight the row containing the DVD figures (see Figure 2).

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

Here's where Excel becomes your best friend. The software is going to do the math for you, providing you with three important calculations for the highlighted data. In the bottom-right corner of the screen (see Figure 3), we observe that DVDs have a monthly average circulation of 1,361 materials. In addition, there is a count of 32 data figures in the highlighted sample, and the total sum of highlighted figures is 42,202.

[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]

Just by highlighting the DVD data, Excel showed that during a period of 32 months, we averaged 1,361 DVD circulations each month, accumulating a total of 42,202 circulations over that period. …

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