Strategic Planning Takes a Leap Forward with Data Analytics

4 min read

Posted 12/3/2015

By Jackie Sullivan and Sarah Withers

Mastering data analytics for public library administrators and their board of trustees is a critical success factor for planning and community engagement. The South Carolina State Library wanted to optimize the strategic planning resources that public libraries currently have available including collection strategy, materials investment, outreach, and programming to drive more value to the communities they serve.

The State Library knew data analytics is what public library directors and their management team would benefit from most to leverage local demographic and collection use statistics to answer questions such as: Who is using our services? Is our programming relevant? What direction are patrons heading? What areas can we grow by investing more budget dollars? Are we maximizing our resources?

In October, the State Library implemented two modules from Gale’s Analytics On Demand: Analytic Tools for Patron Profiles and Marketing Action for Patrons for use by all 42 public library systems. Leesa Aiken, Acting Agency Director, together with the Leadership Team at the South Carolina State Library saw the value of how the customized analytics reports would unlock valuable insights for library administrators about their community, as well as expand collaboration with the State Library to identify statewide trends, peer-to-peer to comparisons of libraries, and library advocacy initiatives.

Working closely with the State Library and Gale’s Customer Education and Customer Success teams, libraries receive hands-on training and ongoing support using Analytics On Demand. To support the collaborative efforts of the State Library, a Google Drive page was created which offers private access to library folders for report-sharing between individual libraries and the State Library.

From the South Carolina State Library:

We’re so pleased to be able to offer libraries in South Carolina the opportunity to access information specific to their communities so that they can deliver resources, and programs that meet the needs of their patrons. Analytics on Demand paints a picture of community use and impact that libraries can utilize to tell the stories of their communities in a direct, meaningful way.

Leesa M. Aiken, Acting Agency Director
South Carolina State Library

A statewide instance of the Gale Analytics on Demand Patron Profiles module provides the South Carolina State Library a unique opportunity to leverage patron data derived from specific county library systems. It also can help demonstrate to legislators who of their constituents are using the public library and how much to advocate for increased state funding for aid to public libraries in the state.

Chris Yates, Deputy Director, Library Resources and Services
South Carolina State Library

From South Carolina libraries using Analytics On Demand:

 Analytics on Demand provides a level of information about our patrons that has never before been available to us. The detailed insights into our patrons will help us develop collections, programs, and services that meet their needs.

Jimmie Epling, Director
Darlington County Library System

Our library system is in the process of developing a new strategic plan, so Analytics on Demand couldn’t come at a better time for us. In our planning we are trying to better serve every segment of the community, not just the people we have always served or the people who are easiest to reach. We are still conducting traditional surveys and polling library users, but AOD gives us access to data we didn’t have previously. Some of the questions we’re hoping to answer:

  • Which area of the county contains the largest concentration of library users?
  • Which county residents travel the farthest to use the library?
  • How does the travel time of internet users compared to the travel time of book users?
  • Which demographics are we under-serving?

The preliminary report alone was illuminating. It confirmed some of what we already believed about our customer base, but it also brought some new facts to light that I hadn’t known, even after studying census data and other sources. We’re looking forward to coming up with creative ways to use AOD.

P. Alan Smith, Director
Florence County Library

To learn more about how Analytics On Demand can be used in your state, please contact your Consortia Sales Consultant.


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