15 April, 2008

Library statistics

Yesterday I attended a workshop on Data Collection and Analysis for Victorian library managers in at the State Library. Libraries are good at collecting statistics, we know how many people borrow how many books, how many people come into the library and attend activities and programs. We count our new members, how many holds people place and how many searches are done on the catalogue. All these statistics are in our Annual Report.

The purpose of the workshop was to explore how and why we collect all this data. There is a wealth of demographic data freely available on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website. This could be most useful for small business people as well, as it gives in fine detail all sorts of information, for example, how many mothers with children between 0 - 4 years are working, by postcode. The information is provided in maps or tables. For libraries, some of the relevant areas are the breakdown by age of the community, ethnic background and internet connectivity. This sort of information is very useful for designing services and programs.

Another very interesting speaker was Mary Dalmau from Readers Feast Bookstore in the City. She talked about the sorts of statistics and information she needs to run a successful bookshop, and how it is very different managing a bookshop where people are looking for an experience when they visit, compared say to a chemist shop. She is particularly proud of her staff who are all avid readers and are able to convey their enthusiasm and love of books to customers.

This ties in with a conference that has just been held, also at the State Library, on Reading Development, which was about how librarians can promote reading for pleasure. Again there were some wonderful presenters and some great ideas to bring back, and our staff who attended are getting together to develop ideas that they got from speakers from the UK and NZ as well as Australia. One of the most popular was Tom Palmer, a young man who is employed as a reading consultant for a group of libraries in the UK. He explained that when he was in primary school he was a very poor reader, but his mother encouraged him by using books and magazines about soccer to engage his interest. Now he is using similar techniques with boys as part of an ongoing program in libraries and schools in the north of England, with great success - and he writes books for children using football as the main theme.

Let us know if you have ideas on how you would like the library to encourage a love of reading or even if you'd like to know some statistics!

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