Blossoming Interest in Gathering Statistics

The Minnesota Academic and Research Libraries Division holds an annual spring gathering and for the past few years the annual meeting has taken place at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.  With the early spring in Minnesota, it was a beautiful location with many tulips, redbuds, lilacs, and daffodils in full bloom.  What also bloomed this year during the day was an increased interest in developing a program of assessment in our libraries.

At this year’s ARLD day, there were two sessions that were relevant to the Value report.  Kara Malenfant, and I did a 50 minute session to introduce participants to using the report and selecting one topic to brainstorm on how they could get started collecting data.  After a brief overview of highlights of the report, some samples from existing statistical reports, and a brief example from work being done by the University of Minnesota, participants worked together to brainstorm on one of three topics:  Student Experience, Student Learning, or Faculty research.  Each table brainstormed on how they might get started working with their offices of institutional research or using existing data.

After the brainstorming session, we had a brief discussion with the participants regarding challenges they felt they faced in starting this type of project.  One comment raised in this group, and a comment I’ve heard previously, relates to gathering data on use of databases.  Is there an opportunity here for ACRL to work with vendors to help us collect information without violating privacy?  Other participants mentioned the challenge of not having an office of institutional research on their campus, and that this could be a barrier.  At the same time, several participants were enthusiastic about getting started based on some of the brainstorming done in small groups.  Highlight for me was the response by one participant on “how excited” she was to get started when she returned to her institution.

Thanks to Carrie Keillor, from St. Mary’s University, Minneapolis for the testimonial.

A second session featured the work being done by the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.  Members of the library staff have been working with a faculty member in the computer sciences along with members of their Office of Institutional Research to collect and analyze data in order to make correlations about student retention and library instruction.  Members of the University shared information on their research project in March at our regional Library Technology Conference.  Entitled, “Library Data and Student Success”, the group shared how they were able to collect information that showed that 77% of their undergraduates made use of the  library in the fall semester of 2011.  They were also able to demonstrate that 85% of their graduate students made use of the library.  While one would naturally expect graduate students to be using the library, to be able to demonstrate that the library had an impact of some kind on 77% of their undergraduates is definitely something to brag about.  One can look at some of the data they have collected by reviewing their session slides found here –http://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/libtech_conf/2012/sessions/28/

In the next blog posting, I’ll provide some more details on the University of Minnesota efforts at collecting data and analyzing results and their perspective on privacy.  In the general discussion that we had with participants at our session, one individual mentioned the challenge of comparing circulation data since data was erased when materials were returned.  By sharing the work they are doing, it is hoped it will help generate some conversations and ideas on your campuses.

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