All libraries collect data to enable them to measure the performance and delivery of their service. These days that management information is increasingly critical and many academic library managers will be using data shared through SCONUL statistical reports for benchmarking and planning purposes. These reports are based on defined sets of data submitted annually by academic libraries in Sconul around library resources, usage, income and expenditure.
At De Montfort University Library (and many others) visitor data is provided by their Sentry access control system. De Montfort have been Sentry access control users for many years and have found great value in the reporting that this system provides. In the last eight years, data has not only provided performance measurement but it has also provided evidence upon which successful business cases have been produced for library investment projects.
In 2004, data was used to support student feedback for funding to increases opening hours that led to 24/5 opening. In subsequent years, use of data collected from library spaces made it possible to make budget plans for the forthcoming year and to determine where space is being underused, or more importantly, whether more space is required. Before and after their original “Learning Zone” refurbishment program during the 2006/7 academic year, the library was able to show a 15% increase in footfall through their doors, and thanks to occupancy data to prove that occupancy levels were effectively at 90- 95% during busiest periods. Empirical proof of the success of this investment in turn supported further business cases for a second Learning Zone that opened in 2009 (with access control) and a further learning space, The Greenhouse, that opened in 2011. An Irysis people counting device has been installed in this location to provide management information on the use of this space.
Data gathered, (from the library’s access control database), is not simply used for development projects, it also allows for the profiling of library use by faculty and borrower type and gives the opportunity for modelling of service use and for planning of further service improvements. This area has been explored further in the JISC sponsored library impact data project where joint research between the University of Huddersfield, De Montfort University and other university libraries analysed aggregations of library and university data. By drawing together anonymised data on use of library spaces, e-resources, lending and other metrics along with final award classification the project has proved a strong a correlation between student attainment and library use. This gives useful empirical proof that use of a well resourced library has a direct bearing on academic success. Local analysis of data collected for this project has allowed De Montfort to look at subject areas across the university to determine those areas that require targeted responses to increase use of the facilities, thus supporting student retention, and also to highlight areas of good practice where library use was clearly shown to be beneficial in the attainment of higher grades.
Moving forward the department plans to continue to monitor the data from both access control and their newly installed room bookings system so that the library can monitor, not just numbers, but the breakdown of student type and also faculties to ensure that our spaces are being utilised to best effect. A dedicated postgraduate research space that was opened in 2011 in response to student feedback has been monitored over the past academic year to determine levels of use. Take up of the space was not as extensive as feedback indicated it might be, and having proved use levels the library now plans to open this area up to all postgraduate students from September 2012. Space is at a premium in many universities so best and most appropriate use of that space is of the utmost importance. Having the data to make informed planning decisions pays dividends as De Montfort University have found.