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Engagement and data driven decision making for libraries – 3 good questions to ask

Jon BentleyBy Jon Bentley
Category - Blog

Tuesday 8th August 2017

Data. It’s everywhere. Measuring us and monitoring us – and if used intelligently it informs us and improves what we do.

Digital resources are a rich source of data. As each user moves from article to article and across platforms their behaviour is tracked. This data, when collected and processed in compliance with law and appropriate permissions, offers insight which allows libraries and publishers to develop services that are used more and more by end users, researchers, employees, students.

‘Engagement’ is a word that summaries many successful outcomes for libraries – more people, using more resources, more often.

For that to happen the services need to be accessible, they need to be discoverable. People need to know where the resources are and how to reach them. The resources need to be of the appropriate quality and relevance to keep readers coming back again and again. ‘Content is King’ is a much over-used phrase in commercial publishing but not one I’ve heard regularly from libraries.

And importantly the library and the publisher have to work tirelessly to promote what is available to end users.

Industry data shows that many email alerts are only opened by a quarter of the people who receive them. Even activation emails that validate access to resources remain unopen and expire.

So, data can expose a problem and provide guidance on how to solve it.

Making data driven decisions

Three questions libraries can ask which will help drive up engagement:

  • Who is, or isn’t, using the resources I have purchased?
  • Which resources are being accessed most frequently?
  • Where and how are people accessing our resources?

Data collection from digital resources provide answers to these questions. Patterns will emerge around use of particular resources by different groups. This allows libraries to develop strategies and campaigns to focus on increasing engagement. It could be more training for one group of users who don’t log-in; or increased investment in popular resources used by many but which could be used by more.

OpenAthens is one of the digital services that supports these data driven decisions. The information we collect – which can be anonymised or not depending on each organisation’s privacy policies – allows libraries to see which groups of users are using which resources. It can track which resources are being accessed most frequently.

All this information is valuable when making investment decisions about how to use scarce resources, but most importantly it can be used to increase engagement with the services libraries offer.

This summer, the OpenAthens team is developing a new array of reports to support libraries with their decision making. We are improving the way we collect and process data and completely re-working the way we present this data back to our customers.

We can definitely answer questions 1 and 2 for our customers – and looking for a way to answer number 3.

And that in a way is a lesson about data too. It is not about the size and scope of the data you don’t have. It’s about how you best use the data you do have – whether it is big or small.

If you’re interested in learning more about how OpenAthens is developing our data collection and reporting, check out our webinar we held on the 20th September.

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