Good Data Makes Good Sense
Anderson, Mary Alice, MultiMedia Schools
Data-gathering that is not a routine part of media center administration is time-consuming; if it is habitual, it takes only minutes.
This past spring data reflecting usage of an older computer lab hastened a decision to redistribute the computers to other locations; 8 years ago we used data about the need for that lab to acquire funding for its creation. Data depicting our print collection's copyright statistics, along with data showing the demands state graduation standards are placing on resources, helped obtain an increase in our print budget while maintaining a very respectable budget for electronic resources. Numbers reflecting media center and lab usage were used as we worked with architects to plan new facilities. As I was finishing this column a reporter from the local newspaper called for information about our district's upcoming technology referendum. Good data helps media specialists make wise decisions and provides concrete information for administrators and others involved in decision-making processes. Busy administrators appreciate and understand numerical data presented in concise and easily understood statistical and graphical formats. They respond positively to information that is well-prepared. They might not have the time to react to the data the minute you share it, but they appreciate knowing you have the information if it is needed and relevant.
Data-gathering that is not a routine part of media center administration is time-consuming; if it is habitual, it takes only minutes. Today's media center technologyautomation systems, databases, and spreadsheets-are the only tools needed to make sure we always have quick access to useful statistical information. Charts, graphs, and presentation software are the tools for presenting the data. This column will examine how data is useful in three distinct, yet integral areas of media center management and decision making: collection development and budgets; curriculum integration and information literacy; staff development and staff skills.
Collection development Today's students need access to balanced collections that provide up-to-date resources in all formats. Data pertaining to copyright, circulation, and budgets helps in justifying and obtaining funding and making purchasing decisions. One data-gathering process useful for collection development is a periodic assessment of the media center collection's copyright data. We've formally assessed and analyzed our collection's copyright data several times. The initial assessment showed the collection was dated and in need of serious weeding. It was presented in graph format to the building site team and district personnel. The end result was extra money for the media center. That funding has remained intact for over a dozen years; it helps us improve all areas of the collection.
Automation systems can generate copyright data. You can also gather the data by tallying copyright dates. Once collected, the data can be compiled in a spreadsheet and presented in graphs. Graphs have an impact, especially if the copyright analysis shows that the average age of the materials in your collection is detracting students from using them (see Figure 1).
Circulation data and media center usage reports show that print circulation is increasing in our information technology rich school. Clearly, there is still a demand for print and for providing resources developmentally appropriate and easily accessible. Your automation system will help you collect and generate the concrete numerical data; be sure to share the information. My principal shared the good news about media center circulation during opening remarks at a district-wide workshop-his way of saying the media center is well used.
Materials usage data is essential for strategic weeding. The reports our circulation system generates have always been useful for tracking usage trends; they are now essential as we are preparing to move to a new school. …