How efficient tools showcase a library’s impact

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Many libraries have had to strengthen their digital presence to survive, especially over the last 12 months, writes Cintia Dabes

The digital revolution has changed the relationship between libraries/librarians and end-users.

Part of making libraries accessible and effective is to install tools that allow them to demonstrate and monitor the library’s impact on its users. Whether reporting is a monthly, quarterly or annual requirement, having clear and consistent metrics offer clear insight into usage patterns and behaviours.

OpenAthens reporting API is just one example of this. This new feature allows librarians to easily extract their patron-usage data into existing data visualisation software, such as Tableau or Power BI, enhancing their capabilities to make data-based decisions for the benefit of their organisations.

The reporting tools help information managers and librarians easily demonstrate the value of the library to internal stakeholders in a visual format. By generating customisable reports on usage and access, these features help highlight relevant data to the institution and showcase the impact of the library in a clear, concise way.

Key benefits of using a reporting tool for tangible metrics

A library which invests in a reporting tool will instantly be able to present reports with enhanced visual graphics that communicate value with internal stakeholders in a more effective, accessible format. This type of highly customised reporting allows librarians and information managers to focus in on specific data that is relevant to their institution.

There is also the option to integrate reporting tools with other data analytics software, such as Tableau, for a seamless experience with other systems used within the organisation.

Some of the key benefits for measurement include:

• Customisable reporting;
• Reports in an easy to digest/visual format for all stakeholders;
• Reports can be scheduled for certain times/dates;
• Data attributes;
• Account reports; and
• Resource access reports.

Challenges libraries and librarians are facing

With all implementation efforts there are bound to be some hiccups along the way. Firstly, it is best to acknowledge them so you are better prepared to face whatever might happen along the way.

The OpenAthens team talked to some library customers and asked about the challenges they are facing while using or implementing reporting tools for clearer metrics and results. Overall, feedback showed that organisations using the features find it useful.
However, some librarians had found it difficult in getting detailed patron usage stats on specific data to negotiate better deals with publishers as well as gathering specific data to understand which subscriptions deliver most value for money so that informed decisions on budget allocation could be made.

These challenges are things that OpenAthens is currently working with its customers on.

Leeds Beckett University

One example of an organisation that brought onboard OpenAthens reporting tool to enhance reporting and metric usage was Leeds Beckett University. Samantha Heeson, electronic and data services librarian, explained the process that the organisation had to go through to onboard OpenAthens.

Leeds Beckett University has two library sites; one in Leeds City Centre and one based at its Headingley Campus. The library has almost 100 staff operating across the two locations, facilitating library services for over 19,000 students. The analytics development process was iterative, consisting of several soft launches rather than a main one. The library was initially a little overwhelmed with the possibilities that the data insight brought and what they could do with it.

Heeson, therefore, set to work on a proof of concept tying together OpenAthens and university data using Excel data models and pivots. Her team were excited to see the results.

Library inductions were used as an opportunity to track the impact on resource usage for a particular course. As the data received from OpenAthens was at that stage monthly, the impact of the induction was hard to see, as it needed a longer time span. Still, the exercise was helpful to pull data in an applied scenario.

Heeson then shifted her focus to annual reporting. She was able to produce tables and charts showing which resources were used, how often, at which part of the year and how many students were interacting with them. The data showed immediate trends, matching the academic year and pattern the university would expect. It also revealed anomalies that could be taken away and investigated. The exercise also suggested where more promotion of certain resources may be needed to improve student interaction.

A lot of work was undertaken on the visualisation of the data to present it in an easily digestible format and clearly highlight trends and anomalies so that academic support and learning resources colleagues could better understand resource usage and student engagement.

Benefits and results

Heeson describes the positive outcomes and important success points for her organisation’s use of OpenAthens data. ‘As a library, we are very much involved in the discussions on academic support and what academics can do to enhance the user-learning experience from a resource perspective.’

‘With OpenAthens data, we can provide real evidence on resource usage and user engagement, not just counts or anecdotal insight. We’ve been able to both corroborate and challenge existing perceptions. Often, the data supports the perception, but it has also revealed instances where they may be wrong – when a certain resource is not essential, but it is one favoured by the students and vice versa, for example.

‘The data comes at a level I can work with and any problems or queries are dealt with thoroughly and responsively. My colleagues have also been extremely positive. They have been given insights that they have wanted for a long time – enabling decisions on budgeting and effective resource provision to support students based on digestible evidence.’

Anglia Ruskin University

Another example of an organisation which has taken advantage of OpenAthens reporting tools to measure engagement is Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in Cambridge.

Alex Collins, application analyst at ARU, explained that the university had been using OpenAthens for a while. The relationship with the OpenAthens team was quite strong as they had originally implemented OpenAthens LA, which is when they first started using reporting of any description. Reporting was implemented into ARU’s library because they wanted metrics on basic statistics and resource usage, to see what was being used and what was not being used.

Fast forward to today, ARU now uses OpenAthens reporting API to monitor a variety of library outputs, including the potential to flag misuse of data to librarians. The reporting API tool from OpenAthens that ARU is now using has massively helped the university with student retention.

‘Using the reporting from OpenAthens means we have no concerns – no concerns with the way it works, with the product or with the data it produces. The project to implement OpenAthens reporting API kicked-off in November 2019 and was completed in January 2020. We had noticed that students were finding knowledge resources online and we needed to cater for this.

‘The specific benefit of implementing a reporting tool was to save time, as the reporting API got rid of us having to manually generate reports and did it for us with specific data that the teams can review and use to enhance services if needed. Ultimately, the API has enabled ARU to automate the feed into our student dashboard and work with the students who are not engaged with their course or manage resourcing levels through interrogating the data produced from the reporting API.’

He continued: ‘We have been using OpenAthens products for 20 years, if they didn’t work and provide precise data to review, we wouldn’t use them, it is as simple as that. We get great support when we need it, and it pairs with the great service that is provided by OpenAthens and the reporting tools.’

• To find out more about OpenAthens’ Reporting API and how it can benefit libraries across the globe you can register for its free-to-attend webinar on 22 June at 2pm at the link below:

Cintia Dabes is a product marketing executive at OpenAthens