What to do with the Data? Start with Three Basics

What to do with the Data? Start with Three Basics

4 min read

| By Lisa Novohatski, Marketing Analytics Consultant, Gale |

There are three things all libraries should consider when gathering and using data. Lindsay Hanson, Data Analysis Librarian at Sno-Isle Libraries in Marysville, WA and Jason Kucsma, Deputy Director at Toledo Lucas County Public Library (TLCPL) in Toledo, OH, recently shared their insights on these “three basics” and how putting Analytics On Demand to work in their library system as made a tremendous impact on their ability to serve their patrons’ needs.

“We progressed to Analytics On Demand, which has been incredible. We never had a tool to help us look at demographic information or our customers specifically. This is really a whole new world for us …”

– Lindsay Hanson

“Everything starts with Analytics On Demand. It’s a very integral part of our team’s workflow. We’re making smarter decisions based on our community’s needs and interests.”

– Jason Kucsma

ONE: TALK. SHARE. COLLABORATE.

Start internally. It wouldn’t be hard to believe that there is no single person who knows about all the different data streams that exist within your library. Instead, everyone has particular knowledge of their own “world.” Folks would likely welcome the opportunity to share what data they have, how they use it, their successes as well as their struggles. So, turn to your right, then to your left, and strike up some conversations.

Next, go outside your walls and talk to colleagues at other libraries. Many library systems experience similar issues regardless of differences in size, service area demographics, or resources. Everyone benefits by learning from others rather than individually recreating the wheel over and over again.

Lindsay’s insight: Hanson and her colleagues generate data dashboard reports for each of their library branches and encourage staff at those locations to look at the information and use it to inform outreach. This approach allows staff to play with the data and get comfortable with the reports. By sharing this data across branches, Sno-Isle is better able to accommodate each of their unique communities.

TWO: DIVE INTO YOUR DATA.

While you devote time to collecting data, how well do you know it and put it to use? Schedule some time to take a deep dive into your data and understand the different streams you presently have in place. Knowing what data is already being collected within your institution can allow you to answer questions you may not even realize you had.

Leveraging existing data alleviates the hassle of collecting data – setting up mechanisms; training staff; then collecting, extracting, validating, and cleaning – all before you can even begin analysis.

Jason’s insight: Using Analytics On Demand, Kucsma reports that his team has identified 12 composite mosaics that represent the lion’s share of their customers ranging from parents with preschool-aged children to adults focused on personal finance or travel adventures. This provides library staff with key insights on their target markets and allows them to target audiences that would be more likely to engage in programs and initiatives of special interest.

THREE: RELY ON THE REAL STUFF

For best results, use actual usage data to understand patterns and trends rather than surveys. Why? While surveys are great for certain types of data like satisfaction and user feedback they are less reliable for metrics such as usage. Using the “real stuff” removes the bias of social desirability and the inaccuracy of guess-timation, allowing you to evaluate and measure what people are actually doing and how they’re using your services.

Lindsay’s insight: A colleague working on increasing kindergarten readiness was asked by a partner at the local United Way for information about how many low-income families with children are served. Using Analytics on Demand, they were able to look at customers who were active within the last 12 months and determined the number of households served that fell into Mosaics segments with a low income.

Learn more about Analytics On Demand at gale.com/analytics18


How are Sno-Isle Libraries, TLCPL, and other libraries mastering data-driven decision making?


Analytics On Demand. A powerful tool that adds value to a library’s existing data, integrating powerful demographics and allowing users to unlock key insights about their community. With ongoing access to detailed, customizable reports, and an interactive dashboard, using Tableau Reader, libraries are better equipped to target new populations, create new programs, advance the library’s value to the community, and allocate resources more efficiently.


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