Spreadsheets – a waste of time or a means to an end?
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I was one of a number of people in the room who sat up smartly when Ross MacIntyre opened his presentation at the 2012 UKSG conference by saying that spreadsheets are a waste of intellectual ability. Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is crucial, and we need the appropriate information to inform and support our decisions, but this information is a means to an end and it is all too easy to get so involved in collecting and storing the information that we run out of time or energy to do anything with it. Librarians have moved beyond the point where just having the data is enough, we now see this a way to improving our library service. Time and effort needs to be focussed on interpretation and use, not downloading statistics and finding our own methods (usually in Excel) to produce comparable reports.

The JISC Journal Usage Statistics Portal (JUSP) is a great service which collates the usage statistics for UK academic libraries by providing a single point of access to e-journal usage data. JUSP is able to take into account alternative access routes and intermediaries, helping us avoid that fear of double-counting.

However they are obtained, we all use usage statistics to assist in collection development decisions. Anne Murphy showed the value of this when discussing how the librarians set about reducing their journal subscriptions by 25% at Adelaide and Meath Hospital Library, Dublin. Though making decisions based on usage and non-usage of journal titles and through constant consultation with users, they were able to ensure that these difficult decisions were as pain-free as possible.

So there are plenty of ways in which usage statistics support collection development. A significant part of my work is around usage statistics and their use.  I picked up an interpretation tip from Ross — OA journals often go straight into full text, so they will have a higher Full Text Download count than sources found via abstracts.  These presentations and other discussions at UKSG and elsewhere bring me back to something I have been working through—  How can journal usage be used to justify other library activities? How we can show the impact of definite promotional or training activities on usage statistics?  Has anyone has been able to achieve this is a statistically reliable way?

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About Anne Powell

Anne Powell is the Programme Manager, Information Access and Use at INASP.

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