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The Importance of Meaningful School Library Data

Friday, June 8, 2018

As the school year closes and the hallways become quiet, library media specialists assume the task of creating year end reports. With each passing year the presence of data in education grows, and effective gathering and use of data continues to be a meaningful way to illustrate the value of library programming to administrators. This data can be utilized to support many facets of the Future Ready Librarian Framework by providing information about the use of space, the creation of instructional partnerships, curation of resources, professional development needs, equity in access to resources, and budgeting strategies. In order to accomplish this, it is critical to think about how the different components of data can work together to illustrate impacts on student learning, rather than isolating each element.

Circulation data, some of the oldest and most commonly collected pieces of library information, might be disregarded by administration if not connected with other data points. Circulation data illustrates access to resources, and, when combined with other student or class information, may be an indicator for providing equity of access. Consider analyzing not only the print collection, but statistics showing access to databases, too. There are resources on the BadgerLink website to show you how to collect this information. Additionally, you might examine how your collaboration or other curriculum projects impact circulation at different times of the year.

Comparing collaboration data with circulation numbers is a way to give the latter a stronger connection to student learning. Collaboration data can also provide a unique insight into instructional partnerships and professional development needs. In addition to keeping accurate numbers of instances or time spent collaborating, coaching, and mentoring, document other pertinent items, such as subject area, curriculum units, and strategies used. Another helpful tool is surveying staff for feedback regarding experiences, student impact, and professional development needs.

Collaboration can also be connected to your collection data. Explore how collaborations impact use of your print and digital collections in order to better curate your collection and budget for resources. Being able to discuss collection data in terms of how the collection is impacting students is another great talking point to illuminate for administration why and how curation of resources can improve student learning.

As library spaces steadily evolve and continue to promote inquiry, creativity, collaboration, and community, data about the space itself continues to be of value, too. Again, the data must go beyond just numbers of visitors; it should document purposes of visits, size of groups, and popular attractions. This information can drive decisions about maker areas, furniture, future space design and availability. It may also be used to contribute to conversations regarding how library programming supports the social emotional growth goals in your school or district since the library is naturally an environment that encourages diversity, equity, and awareness of voice.

There are an abundance of ways to turn stale year end statistics into data used for growth and transformation. Dedicate yourself to showcasing your report to administration as an insightful tool to improve student learning. And, as you look at what you have collected, reflect on the questions you truly want answered and begin planning for changes you will make for next year.

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For questions about this information, contact Monica Treptow (608) 575-6065