No More Tallies: Comparing Web-Based Reference Statistics Tools

Last week I got the opportunity to present at the Library 2.013 Conference virtually for an international audience of librarians. Besides being a great opportunity to get presentation experience, presenting also motivated me to become an expert in the subject of web-based reference statistics tools. The link to the presentation itself is here, but if you want a quick recap, keep reading.

When I arrived at my current position, the library was still using paper and pencil to record reference statistics. Fortunately, my supervisor was very willing to consider something new. The research that I did to decide which direction to go with our own reference statistics recording resulted in the information here.

Reference Statistics Tools Chart

Some questions you might ask if your library was deciding which web-based statistics tool to use:

  • How much customization do I need?
  • How complicated can the tool be? Who will be using it?
  • What is my budget?
  • What are the assessment needs of my library?
  • What kind of reports do I need to be able to run? Am I willing to do reporting manually?

There were a few things that I found in my literature review to be true about the process of choosing a reference statistics tool regardless of which tool was eventually chosen.

  1. Choosing a tool requires careful thought about what kind of metadata your library wants to collect (i.e. type of question, where it was asked, how long the transaction was, etc.). This means all staff involved in reference data collection need to be involved in this decision, and the needs of your library must be carefully considered.
  2. A reference statistics tool is only as useful as the data put into it. So no matter how complex or detailed the tool is, if the users of the tool don’t put in high quality, standardized data (or if they fail to use the tool at all), the tool won’t be useful in data analysis. Which means …
  3. Complicated isn’t necessarily better. If your staff has to answer a slough of questions every time someone comes to the reference desk or sends an email, they may be discouraged enough to just skip recording reference data altogether. A good way to look at it is to examine how much the tool disrupts the workflow of the librarian weighed against the quality of the data collected.

This is just a little snapshot of what I talked about at the conference. If you have questions or comments about reference statistics tools, don’t hesitate to contact me! And if you have experience with any of these tools, please share your impressions below to help other librarians decide which tool would be the best fit for them.

Bibliography

Bedoya, Jaclyn. “Reviews: Gimlet — Staff Your Desk Wisely.” Rev. of Http://gimlet.us/. MARS: Emerging Technologies in Reference Section 8 Jan. 2012: n. pag. MARS: Emerging Technologies in Reference Section. American Libraries Association, 8 Jan. 2012. Web. 8 Sept. 2013.

Bell, Marissa. “Reviews: Tracking Stats with Reference Analytics.” Rev. of http://www.springshare.com/libanswers/analytics.html. MARS: Emerging Technologies in Reference Section 30 Jan. 2012: n. pag. MARS: Emerging Technologies in Reference Section. American Libraries Association, 30 Jan. 2012. Web. 8 Sept. 2013.

Bravender, Patricia, Colleen Lyon, and Anthony Molaro. “Should Chat Reference Be Staffed by Librarians? An Assessment of Chat Reference at an Academic Library Using LibStats.” Internet Reference Services Quarterly 16.3 (2011): 111-27. Library and Information Science Source. Web. 8 Sept. 2013.

Breitbach, William. “Gimlet.” Rev. of Http://gimlet.us. The Charleston Advisor Apr. 2011: 36-37. Library and Information Science Source. Web. 8 Sept. 2013.

Carter, Sunshine, and Thomas Ambrosi. “How to Build a Desk Statistics Tracker in Less Than an Hour Using Forms in Google Docs.” Computers in Libraries Oct (2011): 12-16. Library and Information Science Source. Web. 8 Sept. 2013.

“Desk Tracker.” Desk Tracker. Compendium Library Services LLC, n.d. Web. 8 Sept. 2013.

“Desk Tracker Demonstration.” Online interview. 14 Oct. 2013.

Flatley, Robert, and Robert Bruce Jensen. “Implementation and Use of Reference Analytics Module of Libanswers.” Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship 24.4 (2012): 310-15. Library and Information Science Source. Web. 8 Sept. 2013.

“Gimlet: Staff Your Desk Wisely.” Gimlet · Staff Your Desk Wisely. Sidecar Publications, 2008. Web. 8 Sept. 2013.

“Google Drive.” Google Drive. Google, n.d. Web. 8 Sept. 2013.

“Libstats – A Simple Web-based App for Tracking Library Reference Statistics.” Libstats. Google Project Hosting, n.d. Web. 8 Sept. 2013.

Prokrym, Tanya. “Reviews: Keeping Track of Interactions with Desk Tracker.” Rev. of http://www.desktracker.com/. MARS: Emerging Technologies in Reference Section 23 Dec. 2012: n. pag. MARS: Emerging Technologies in Reference Section. American Libraries Association, 23 Dec. 2012. Web. 8 Sept. 2013.

Rager, Janie L. “Reviews: Collecting Customizable Stats with an Access Database.” Rev. of Http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/access. MARS: Emerging Technologies in Reference Section 16 Jan. 2012: n. pag. MARS: Emerging Technologies in Reference Section. American Libraries Association, 16 Jan. 2012. Web. 8 Sept. 2013.

“Reference Analytics Module.” Springshare LibAnswers. Springshare LLC, 2010. Web. 8 Sept. 2013.

Rozear, Hannah. “Diktuon: Web-Based Statistics Trackers.” Theological Librarianship 5.2 (2012): 1-3. Library and Information Science Source. Web. 8 Sept. 2013.

Todorinova, Lily, Andy Huse, Barbara Lewis, and Matt Torrence. “Making Decisions: Using Electronic Data Collection to Re-Envision Reference Services at the USF Tampa Libraries.” Public Services Quarterly 7.34 (2011): 34-48. Library and Information Science Source. Web. 8 Sept. 2013.

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One thought on “No More Tallies: Comparing Web-Based Reference Statistics Tools

  1. Pingback: SELA/SCLA Conference: Take-Aways | Mandi Goodsett

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