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What We Mean When We Talk About Use

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Last month I wrote about the new Public Library Annual Report data requirement on Successful Retrievals of Electronic Information,
Understanding the Numbers: Successful Retrievals of Electronic Information on the Public Library Annual Report, and today's post is about how BadgerLink has moved this forward at a state-level.

Here's a quick recap.
  • Database usage has been historically tracked by sessions or searches. However, these metrics are either no longer supported by major vendors, or not seen as valid.
  • We've had access to other metrics since 2014 but weren't sure exactly what to do with them.
  • The new Annual Report requirement was introduced in 2016.

Armed with this information we wanted to demonstrate, across all BadgerLink resources (8 vendors), what "successful retrieval of electronic information" could look like. But nothing is perfect. It was not possible to use the same metric across all vendors, so the available metric that most closely related to a user's actual action was selected.

Metrics used to determine “successful retrieval of electronic information”

BadgerLink Resources


EBSCO, Gale, TeachingBooks

(COUNTER 4 Database Report 1)

Result Clicks


Documents & Media (accessed)

LearningExpress Library

Total # of Resources (accessed)

Access NewspaperARCHIVE


HeritageQuest Online


Wisconsin Newspaper Association


I know what you're thinking, you said searches aren't valid! Again, not perfect, but at least consistent across the years. And these are regular searches, meaning deliberately performed by the user, not a federated search engine or discovery layer.

Graph showing BadgerLink successful retrieval growth between 2014-2016
BadgerLink Retrievals 2014-2016

According to the results, we've seen a gradual increase in retrievals since 2014. We'll use this data, alongside vendor-specific reports and user feedback, to tell the BadgerLink story.

More changes on the horizon

COUNTER, the non-profit organization that produces the Code of Practice that enables publishers and vendors to report usage of their electronic resources in a consistent way, is currently working on a Release 5, slated for publication in July 2017, with full implementation by January 2019. This release promises to fix inconsistencies in reports, metric types and formats, and seeks a balance between changing needs and reducing complexity. As this pans out, we'll map current Release 4 metrics to Release 5 for our COUNTER-compliant BadgerLink vendors.

If you are interested in learning more or following along:

The upside to all of this? The data exists, and as the community responds we'll continue to evolve and make improvements.

Written by:

Elizabeth Neuman, Resources for Libraries & Lifelong Learning

Posted by Elizabeth Neuman


For questions about this information, contact Elizabeth Neuman (608) 224-5389