Skip to main content

Collecting the Proper Data

My first week back from maternity leave and I'm already getting philosophical ...

One of the big projects I was working on before my maternity leave was a patron survey on technology. The survey ran while I was on leave and we just got the reports back from the group that created the survey for us.

And my reactions are so mixed ...

On the one hand, it's great we were able to collect so much detailed data on our patrons' use of library technology. There's all sorts of fascinating data (such as 85.8% of our patrons feel public library internet access is either important or very important to the community) that we can now easily share with the Board and other stakeholders.

On the other hand, there's some pretty strong evidence that this was not a representative sample of our community and is likely missing representation from the heaviest users of library technology. While I love the level of detail of the data collected, it made the survey really long. Colleagues who tested it out said it generally took much longer than the advertised 10 minutes. Despite advertising the survey in many formats throughout the library and the community, many who might have taken the survey were scared off by its length.

The middle-aged, white, well-educated, financially well-off females who have other means of internet access and were clearly willing to sit through the survey use the library's internet, website, and electronic resources very differently than those who are from other races, younger, less well-off, less educated, and have no other options for internet access. While we learned a lot about what this one specific group of patrons needs in regards to library technology, the other groups of library technology users we interact with every day simply weren't represented in this survey and we learned next to nothing about their technology needs.

Part of the reason these flaws are frustrating is because this survey is now required from one of our governmental funding sources. In theory, this makes sense. Funding agencies should be picky about giving money to libraries that are responsive to patron needs and one of the ways we can do that is by surveying our patrons to have a better sense of what those needs are. But when the survey doesn't necessarily represent our population, is that really helping our ability to assess our patrons' needs?

These are just my first impressions. We just received the results of the survey and I'm sure we'll be spending lots of time digging into these figures and just exactly what they mean, but at this point, I'm feeling a little disillusioned about the whole process.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

2018 Reading Resolutions

As usual I'll be attempting to read 100 books in 2018.

Total Books Read: 49 of 100

I'm also going to valiantly try to read 20 books I own and get through the backlog on my bookcase. It would really help if I didn't do so much of my reading on audio (nearly all of which are borrowed at work) or get distracted when I'm looking for my next print read by all the pretty books at work.

Books I Own: 2 of 20
Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl by Carol BodensteinerSay No to the Bro by Kat Helgeson
I'm also adjusting my series finishing goal this year. Life is too short to spend finishing series I only feel meh about, so finishing 5 series this year is plenty.

Series Finished/Caught Up: 6 of 10
The War That Saved My Life Series by Kimberly Brubaker BradleySix of Crows Series by Leigh BardugoA Narwhal and Jelly Book Series by Ben ClantonHis Fair Assassin Series by Robin LaFevers (next book expected in 2019)A Court of Thorns and Roses Series by Sarah J. Maas (next bo…

This Year's Reflections on Banned Books Week

... or as I think I'm going to start calling it, Librarian Christmas, the most hyped (by librarians) library holiday of the year. I've been dutifully wearing my "i read banned books" bracelet all week and awaiting patron questions about our banned books displays.

I've written in past years about how I'm sort of over Banned Books Week, but I keep getting pulled back in when I hear about some of the ridiculous books people are trying to ban. This year's is one I just read for the first time this summer, Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya. Apparently it was considerate too graphic and inappropriate for a high school audience. Interesting, considering the story's narrator is in elementary school. Basically, it has the usual collection of difficult to discuss ideas: violence, death, questioning faith in God, a child's confusion about how adult sexual relationships work, but since it's all told from the point of view of a 6-year-old, it's not ter…

Finding Reliable Health Information Online

While going through an old blog of mine, I found this summary of a presentation I gave in late 2006 on finding reliable health information online. Surprisingly most of it is at least somewhat relevant today. Since I'm trying to relive the days when I used to research medical information for a living, this wasn't a bad way to jog my memory.
Finding Reliable Health Information Online
MedlinePlus: This site is put together by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) as a comprehensive consumer health resource. It is relatively easy to use and requires little or no knowledge of medical terminology. Use it like a search engine and simply type your term into the search box, or explore one of MedlinePlus’ specific resources, including drug information, dictionary, and medical encyclopedia.
Quackwatch: A great site for checking out “too good to be true” medical claims. This non-profit corporation is dedicated to combating “health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies…