Landscape of Major US Public Library Data Collection Efforts: A Working Paper for the Measures that Matter Initiative
Smith, John L
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Thousands of public libraries diligently contribute to data collection efforts each year – participating in one time, periodic, and annual surveys at the behest of a variety of organizations. There is an overarching need for timely, reliable, comparable, and meaningful data on public libraries that documents infrastructure, resources, and impact. But, there is no national plan for the collection, storage, use, and dissemination of public library data and service outcomes. As a step towards a more comprehensive understanding of US public library data collection efforts, this paper is a working summary of the US library data collection landscape. In order to map the current state of data collection in public libraries, an effort-level and indicator-level review of eight major library data collection efforts was conducted, as well as a review of previous landscaping efforts, and a review of the Technology and Social Change Group’s Indicators Database. Through this review, this paper explores the purposes of current and recently discontinued efforts, how current data collection efforts are conducted, shared, and used, and the commonalities and differences of data topics, and individual indicators among efforts. Based on the findings from effort- and indicator-level analysis, recommendations are made for a Public Library Data and Outcomes Action Plan. These findings contribute to a long-range effort to change the data collection landscape for public libraries in the US by promoting an understanding of how library data collection efforts align with larger local and national measurement system.
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