Data-Driven Decision Making Ideally Locates New Library Construction

Posted on May 9, 2016

When Dedham Public Library realized the time had come to replace both its 19th century main library and early 20th century branch, the primary question was, where is the best place to construct a new library to meet the needs of our 21st century patrons?

A professional librarian with more than four decades of experience in public and academic libraries was called upon to help answer the question. Mary Ann Tricarico, BA, MLS, MA, DA, began researching, tabulating and analyzing information to create a strategic planning document to optimally locate the new construction. “All my career I’ve been involved in answering complex questions about communities, patron populations, borrowing patterns and usage data – all hand- calculated and hand-tabulated,” she says, noting that it’s an expensive and time- consuming activity.


Easily obtaining data on public library users, community populations, and usage to make data-driven decisions.

Analytics On Demand

“Gobsmacked” by Amazing Results

“I was absolutely gobsmacked the first time I used Analytics On Demand  – I sat in my chair, utterly astonished as I watched a report print out in minutes what would have taken me months to generate on my own. ‘Gobsmacked’ is the only word to describe my reaction,” recalls Dr. Tricarico, whose vocabulary is inspired by her husband, an Irish citizen.

She had been racing the clock to prepare data to support the Building Program Statement. This narrative vision statement – encompassing a community study, needs analysis and statistics for an architect to translate into plans for the new building – was required before her February 201 6 retirement and subsequent move to her vacation home in Ireland.

In the fall of 2015, while in the midst of that project, Dr. Tricarico received an email from Gale about its new analytics product. A unique software solution to affordably provide the power of big data analytics to libraries, Analytics On Demand  allows libraries to prioritize improvements, gain intelligence and measure outcomes by leveraging customized reporting apps. Through a partnership with Alteryx, Inc., Gale’s Analytics On Demand blends confidentiality-protected internal data from a library’s ILS with up-to-date external information from the UU .S. Census Bureau and Experian’s Mosaic Consumer Lifestyle Segmentation data.

“I was immediately intrigued by the Patron Profiles module, because I thought it looked like it would not only help determine where to build the new library, but also would provide the information we needed to develop new services, too,” explains Dr. Tricarico. Once she learned that Innovative Interfaces Inc., the ILS for Minuteman Library Network – a resource consortium of 40 public and academic libraries in Eastern Massachusetts of which Dedham is a member – had participated in Gale’s beta test of its new product, her interest was further piqued.

“I wanted to be convinced, so I contacted Minuteman and asked them to provide Gale with a test database of 100 of Dedham’s patron registration records – with patron names scrubbed for privacy. I was delighted with the results,” she says.

Affordable and Easy to Use

Because Analytics on Demand is so affordable, swift acquisition of the product was not impeded by budgetary concerns. It took Dr. Tricarico only half a day to view an online tutorial and walk through the report-running process step-by-step by telephone with her Gale Customer Success Manager. With only one question, which was quickly addressed, she uploaded her data – as easily as attaching an email – and in less than three minutes had a 30-page, easy-to-read report with graphs, maps and tables.

“In November, I was astonished when Analytics On Demand immediately showed me that our main 19th century building – which we had thought could be the site for new construction – was in the wrong location,” she notes. The geo map of the 10.5 square mile town of Dedham, Massachusetts – just 10 miles south of Boston – created by Analytics On Demand  clearly indicated that the majority of patrons live on the opposite side of town.

“I was also very pleased that, in addition to providing the exact information I needed, Analytics On Demand also generated demographics on our 25 ,000 citizens – as well as the subset who were our borrowers in the last couple of years. The depth of data was so rich, that I could clearly see, for example, what types of periodicals – by category – our patrons and our potential patrons were interested in, as well as what types of new programs and services might attract new users,” she adds.

“I’ve been looking forward to my retirement and am confident that my staff and the consultant our board hired to step into my shoes, now have the empirical data needed to make good decisions for the future of our library and the good of our community,” asserts Dr. Tricarico.

Seven Apps to Unlock Insights

Patron Profiles is just one of Analytics On Demands’ seven apps. Collection Intelligence and eBook & Audiobook Insights blend checkout data and vendor eBook or audiobook data with demographic insights to understand how your community uses your collection.

Marketing Action apps for Patrons and Non-Patrons export a list of household addresses (and/or patron email addresses, if collected by your library) to conduct targeted outreach campaigns. Branch Insights tracks cardholders’ use across various branches in a library system. Patron Voter Analysis targets patrons who will likely support their local library at the polls.

Map excerpt from Analytics On Demand Patron Profiles report
Library Patron Households – Dedham, MA


The map above shows the library location (red star), the library trade area (red outline), and geocoded patron households as blue dots.


  • Mary Ann was able to determine where to build new library.
  • With Analytics on Demand, Mary Ann was also able to provide information needed to develop new services.
To learn more about Analytics on Demand, and the insights you can make (and measure!), click here.

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