Data in Libraries

Last updated: October 25, 2021

Introduction to the Issue: 

It is well known that libraries do great work and provide essential services to their users and communities. What is less well known is the impact that our work and services have on the lives of people we serve.

Data reveals much about the impact of our work, and is a crucial part of advocacy because it helps us tell compelling stories. Data is crucial to our understanding of what services our users want and how to develop new services to meet new needs. Using data to evaluate the impact of our services is essential to our stewardship of tax dollars.

Libraries continue to grow in how they interpret and use data. RAILS created the Data in Libraries Pulse Page to provide resources and support libraries in understanding, using, and sharing data. We plan to update this page regularly, so if you know of any resource, report, or event that is missing feel free to suggest it.

What RAILS Is Doing: 

RAILS Reports, Dashboards, and Maps

RAILS SPARKS Podcasts and Online Roundtable Sessions:

  • Episode 29: Lauren Rosenthal - RAILS Executive Director Deirdre Brennan talks with Library Director Lauren Rosenthal, then from Fox River Valley Public Library District (now Ela Area Public Library), about the importance of data in library advocacy and telling a compelling library story. Lauren gives great, specific examples about how she used data to achieve library goals.

  • RAILS Online Roundtable: Library Data for Advocacy - A discussion of how libraries collect and utilize data. This event relates to the My Library Is... campaign. This event included a short presentation by Amy Stefanski, District Librarian, Dunlap CUSD #323.

  • RAILS Online Roundtable: Using Data in Libraries - A discussion of how libraries can implement the data analysis process in strategic planning and everyday decision making. This event included a short presentation by Grant Halter, RAILS Data Analyst.

E-Content Projects

RAILS Library Job Descriptions Repository

RAILS Deals & Discounts for Data Analytics

  • Gale Analytics - merges the library's ILS data with Mosaic segmentation from Experian, and other data sets, to evolve the way libraries do business and to help them make more informed decisions.
  • Gale Engage - newest analytics tool that ingests and centralizes library data so you can analyze patron interactions and instantly identify key patterns and behaviors through custom visualizations.
  • OpenGov - provides a platform to share your story with data driven context, connect with your community on topics that matter most and directly involve residents in decision making processes.
  • Patron Point - allows libraries to automate their day-to-day customer messaging and enhance their marketing into high-impact targeted campaigns.
Best Practices: 

Data Articles

  • Choosing a Chart Type (Depict Data Studios) - Wondering which type of graph is the best fit for your data? Explore our interactive chart chooser using the filters.
  • Data Planning Logic Model - Blog post by Moe Hosseini-Ara and Rebecca Jones
  • Measures that Matter Action Plan (light) - Building a foundation for library data collection that addresses current and future needs.
  • Measures that Matter Action Plan (full) - Measures that Matter (MtM) was launched through a cooperative agreement between the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) to address short- and long-term challenges to public library data collection and use.

Data Podcast Episodes

  • Big Data Revolution - Once invisible details of our lives can now be tracked and turned into data. Will this make life easier or more complicated? This hour, TED speakers imagine how Big Data will reshape our world.
  • Can We Trust the Numbers - Data, statistics and algorithms dominate every aspect of our lives. But how accurate are they, and how fair? This hour, TED speakers explore the ups and downs of relying too much on the numbers.
Library Examples: 

Consortium Data

Other Resources: 

Useful Data

Interesting Data