Diving into the Data
by Dick Kaser
In the world at large, there’s much talk about Big Data. In the library world, a dataset doesn’t have to be big to make a huge difference. This issue features case studies about applying data to improve the usability of library websites, to gauge the success of library initiatives, and to establish baselines for best practices in library services. But it’s not just about data for data’s sake.
Librarians at the State University of New York–Oswego report that the process of gathering usability data didn’t just help improve user interactions online, but revealed patron needs and preferences in general with the potential to impact library services across the board. Likewise, when librarians at Montana State University set out to measure the effectiveness of their social media initiatives, what they actually learned was how to build community.
For academic and research libraries, there’s also great potential for curating the data produced by researchers or exposing for reference purposes data currently buried in the archives. In his column, Terence Huwe suggests you take the big leap and position your library at the center of the research data preservation movement.
Some say you are what you measure. In her column, Jessamyn West suggests you should measure the right things. Marshall Breeding encourages you to take the pulse of your website traffic and go mobile if the numbers imply you should. And researchers at Rider University give you the data you need to compare your virtual reference services to other libraries in North America.
At the end of the day, it’s not really about the data—it’s about what data can do for you. Data are the key to knowing who we really are and what we might become. Yes—as this month’s cover asserts—data are us. Be one with it.
Dick Kaser, Executive Editor