Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Big Data - empowering business decisions

I follow OCLC on Twitter & yesterday they tweeted about a new blog, which includes a post called transforming data into impact.  It is a really interesting article - with a few key points in it. One was that of all the data being gathered in the world, only half of one percent is actually analysed. The article goes on to provide examples of where libraries are using data to drive informed decisions. The examples are worth looking at.

The article has a couple of sub-headings which read From data to insight and From insight to action.  This resonated with me as I've always been a bit of a data freak, because I am convinced that the best decisions are made based on evidence.  That may appear self-evident, but it is amazing how often decisions are made without a firm evidence base.  People who spend any time with me will hear me say that librarianship (like all professions) is a combination of an art and science.  Science is the evidence we gather to inform us, but the "art" is the professional judgement we use to interpret the data, or to ask more questions to get more data or to form an hypothesis which we then want to test with more action and evidence.  The "art" can be taught formally through library courses, and then it must be further developed through practise, reflection, working with peers and being actively involved in the changes that the profession continues to go through.

True library excellence is based on data, which is translated into insight which then informs action.  And without insight, data is of little value.

In relation to data, PLS has just released the 2014/15 library statistics for each library, and provided some comparisons based on the ALIA Standards and Guidelines and averages of various libraries across the State.  While these ALIA standards are not perfect & don't measure much of what is important about library practise they are a good starting place for libraries to measure themselves against an industry benchmark.  (There is a project on to revise these standards - but that will be the subject of another post soon).

Each library's data was released only to that library, and not published more broadly as we want to give library managers the opportunity to reflect on the data, to use it judiciously to inform their business planning and also choose how they use it within their own council and community.  We have also published the rankings for the metropolitan library, so that they can see where they stand in comparison with other libraries. I am hopeful that by providing comparative data against ALIA Standards and between libraries, managers will have an additional information layer to support their practise  of the "art" of library management.

As we gather more data from within the LMS and from other sources we'll be happy to share it, and in some cases publish it as well.  I am interested in any feedback from libraries about the data we have provided to date.

Port Lincoln RFID makes the media

Congratulations to the team at Port Lincoln for attracting media attention to the installation of your public self-service RFID kiosks.  The article is here.  And it is great to see the journalist taking on some of the context of this local project - the fact that RFID is rolling out across the State & this is a follow on from the One Card rollout.  She was obviously very well briefed by library manager Louise!