View all articles in this issue

Discussion will continue

14 Jun 2016

Andrew Temple-Mabe, Kingston University London

The King's Fund at Cavendish Square was the setting for a thought provoking day's discussion of usage statistics: about how they are measured and, notably, how best they can be used to make informed and intelligent decisions.

A varied group of keen delegates were welcomed with coffee and Danish as Anna Grigson (Head of Collection Services Group, London School of Economics) gave an introduction that outlined both the role of UKSG and the purpose of the day. It was stressed early, as it was throughout the day, that it is not just important to gather stats, but to understand how to interpret them and use them meaningfully.

Anna Franca (Head of Collection Development, King's College London) began proceedings with an interesting overview of how broadly stats can be used to make informed decisions. Anna noted that as well as helping to determine the value of current content, usages stats can be used to inform future purchasing by recognising trends in high-use areas.

Vicki McGarvey's (Learning and Information Services Manager, Staffordshire University) student-focused discussion considered usage statistics in relation to student satisfaction and improving the student experience. It concluded with a thought provoking consideration of how presentation of usage statistics must vary depending on to whom they are being presented, and how important this is in a holistic education environment.

The morning session finished with Rachel Kirkwood (Collection Development Manager, University of Manchester) who used the excellent phrase 'story of data' to emphasise the importance of understanding context and meaning. Her stress on information professionals having data confidence/literacy was well received by delegates evidently keen to increase their own.

It was clear from the busy discussions of delegates at lunch that the morning had provoked considerable thought and prompted some debate, and it was telling to note that although many had institutionally unique relationships to data there was a common goal to use it more wisely.

After lunch Paul Bailey (Senior Co-design Manager, Jisc) provided welcome observations from an alternative perspective, introducing the concept of learning analytics and a new Jisc tool for measuring them. Paul's suggestion that using data about learners' performance can aid learning was certainly received by intrigued ears, and the suggestion of improvement in both attainment and retention allied data with students in a way that nicely reflected the morning's thoughts.

Helen Adey (Resource Acquisition and Supply Team Manager, Nottingham Trent University) followed with a consideration of the culture of assessment in academic libraries, yoked to the importance of the NSS but also introducing to the delegates some other, less familiar, student surveys. Helen really emphasised the survey as a positive tool for change, rather than an annual event to be feared.

The day concluded with a presenters' panel session, and the breadth and volume of the comments from the floor really illustrated how the day had stimulated thought and inspiration. Sadly, there were so many people keen to discuss topics as varied as IP data, debates around technology, influence of discovery systems and more, that I felt another hour of discussion would not have been amiss, but still, it seems fair to assume from the enthusiasm that discussion will continue well beyond the confines of Cavendish Square, and on into the workplace, where inspired and informed delegates will carry on considering, with thoughtfulness and confidence, the best application of stats within libraries and the information profession.

View all articles in this issue