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

2017 Reading Resolutions

Last year, I just barely squeaked out my 100 books, so I'm going to do attempt doing the same this year.

Total Books:
Progress: 63 of 100

As in previous years, I'd also like to focus on reading books I own that have been languishing on my shelves. I'll be a little more realistic in my goal, though, and try to make this year the first I actually reach this particular milestone.

Books I Own
Progress: 11 of 25
The Elephants in My Backyard: A Memoir by Rajiv SurendraNever Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story by JewelSuddenly One Summer by Julie JamesOn the Construction Site by Carron BrownOn the Space Station by Carron BrownSecrets of the Seashore by Carron BrownScarlett Epstein Hates it Here by Anna BreslawBreaking Character by Cameron GreyFinanicial Peace Junior: Teaching Kids How to Win With Money by Dave RamseyThe Wedding Trap by Adrienne BellThe 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss I still want to focus on finishing series (or dropping them as soon as I lose interes…

NASIG 2015 - Day 3

The conference overload was starting to happen on Friday, but I soldiered on. At breakfast I talked to someone from a regional library council. Her background is in special libraries, but in her current position she works with a ton of teeny tiny public libraries, so I was excited to find someone with some common ground.As for the opening speaker, I was pleasantly surprised. The head honcho at Alexander Street Press talked about the future of open access publishing and the reception was mixed. First, he was surprised that librarians didn't think all scholarly publishing was going to be open access in the next decade. Then when he described how publishers were going to stay in business, basically by providing services that either make it easier for researchers to publish or to find what they're looking for in bare bones open access text, the crowd seemed ready to revolt and scream that that wasn't really open access. Maybe because I'm not in academia I'm not so up i…

2016 Reading in Review

I just barely got through my 100 book goal this year (and I'll admit, there were a lot of children's books padding that total), but I have to say I really enjoyed what I read. So now, without further ado, my favorites from what I read this year:


The Holy Bible - This was, without a doubt, my biggest reading accomplishment of the year. A feat I've attempted several times, but 2016 was the year I was successful. Reading this epic work as a whole helped me make sense of the less exciting parts and get a much better big picture view of the work as whole.Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda & Jeremy McCarter - Was there anything I was more obsessed with this year than Hamilton? That's why this annotated script interspersed with short pieces about the show that's revolutionized Broadway has to be on this list. In 2017, I have tickets to finally see the production in Chicago.White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg - This…