By Gerry Sawchuk
It’s impossible to attend a conference or read a library magazine today without hearing about data-driven decision making, big data, and measuring outcomes. Amidst the increasing “noise” around any trending topic, it can be hard to determine what it means for you and what tools are available to help gather and analyze data—here are some details to help you get started.
Do Analytics Really Matter?
“Big data” and “analytics” are buzzwords for good reason. Businesses in other industries have relied heavily on consumer demographics and data analysis for years. Research shows that businesses that leverage data analytics have stronger financial performance, are able to make better decisions more quickly, and are more likely to execute those decisions as intended.
Why does this matter to you? Libraries are not businesses, right? Many libraries are understandably sensitive to being compared to for-profit businesses. Consider for a moment though, that as a library, your products are the content and services you provide, and that your customers are your patrons. Profit aside, libraries have much to gain by leveraging data to retain and grow customers. Quite simply, there is an opportunity to be better positioned to meet the needs of your patrons.
So, do you know your customers? Who’s in your community? How do they interact with your library and what are their interests, lifestyles and needs? In the business sector, getting started is quite expensive and typically requires the data itself, access to analytical tools, and expertise in a number of areas. The few existing products for libraries are also often out of reach—requiring certain advanced skills and significant financial investment.
Big Data Solutions for Modest Library Budgets
Analytics On Demand, created by Gale, is the first affordable solution to deliver the power of big data analytics to libraries. The easy-to-use software leverages customized reporting apps to enable you to quickly and easily blend data from your library’s systems with external information, like U.S. Census and local demographic data, in order to gain intelligence, prioritize improvements and measure outcomes.
By understanding who is (and isn’t) using your library, and how, you can tailor your content, programs and outreach to better meet the needs of your community. And ongoing access allows you to measure the impact of your data-driven decisions over time.
Apps to date include:
- Patron Profiles—see your community’s current library activity aligned with demographics like location, household composition, length of residency, and more
- Collection Intelligence—whether you’d like to analyze by genre or household type, reports help you understand not only what is being checked out but by whom, when, and how often
- Marketing Action—once you identify which consumer segments you’d like to grow, you can use this app to export a list of household addresses to use for outreach
- Vendor and Custom Apps—apps have been created to analyze usage data from popular eBook and audiobook platforms, and we can also create a custom app to meet your specific needs
Gale has partnered with Alteryx, Inc., a leader in data blending and advanced analytics, to give you access to regularly updated demographic and Mosaic Consumer Lifestyle Segmentation data from Experian. We also leverage secure, cloud-based computing technology to protect the privacy for your patrons.
One Library’s Success: Better Data = Better Marketing
Sacramento Public Library (SPL) used the Patron Profiles app to create customized reports for each of their 28 locations. “Branch supervisors are excited to have access to this level of detail about their community,” explains Amy Calhoun, Virtual Services & Communications Coordinator at SPL. “We plan to use the reports to determine where outreach efforts would be most effective as well as to learn more about the interests of our power users through the Mosaic data.”
Calhoun intends to share information about patrons and their interests with her Communications department, so they can use the data to craft more relevant website messaging and newsletters. SPL also plans to focus on new customer outreach. “By learning more about our non-users, I can target our Facebook ads and online advertising to the specific audiences we aren’t yet reaching,” said Calhoun. “Most importantly, we’ll be able to easily measure the effectiveness of our communication and outreach efforts.”
Unlock your library’s insights!
You can make better decisions faster, too. Download a sample report and watch a video demo.
About the Author
Gerry is the Senior Director of Partner Products at Gale. He maintains a close relationship with Alteryx, Inc., a leader in data blending and advanced analytics, who power Analytics On Demand and Demographics Now!
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