What can you learn from DMU’s Library Impact Data?

What was included in DMU’s data?

We have sent in some data for our part of the Library Impact Data Project. The data was collated from different sources: along with the basic student performance was network logins; Athens usage; loans from our Talis Library Management System and visits to the Kimberlin library from the Access Control System.

Network logins

Students can login to the library network from each of the libraries (Kimberlin, Charles Frears, Law and the Eric Wood Learning Zone, and also from Student Services in the Gateway Building). However, someone could use their own laptop and wifi in the library without appearing in these figures.

Athens usage

There are over 100 resources to which students have access via their Athens account.  The figures would underestimate how much use is made of electronic resources as some require other usernames/passwords and others, available through the UK Access Management Federation, ask for Athens details, but these transactions are not included in these statistics. Use of some major resources for Law, notably Westlaw, might be significantly under counted here.

Loans count

The loans count covers borrowing from all of the libraries. Items borrowed include books as well as videos, slide sets and other loanable material. Although we do have a postal loans service for distance learners, it is a pretty good bet that most borrowing events took place during a visit to a library.

Access Control data

Visitors to the Kimberlin library have to present their student card or other library ID to gain access.  This is also true for the Learning Zone in the Eric Wood building, but not for the Law and Charles Frears libraries. Library use counts for law and health students would be significantly under counted in this area.

There are no other services based in the library building. Well, there is a cafe and the Learning Zone acts as a social space for students wanting to meet each other, but everyone coming through the door can be seen as wanting to visit the library and not some other agency.

What else could we have included?

Citrix

DMU has a Citrix service called ‘the Library Applications Portal’ which studnets need to login to. The Portal makes tools like Microsoft Word and SPSS available, so may be a more reliable indicator of academic activity than just logging onto the library network would be.

JACS codes.

JACS codes in used in Higher Education to standardise analysis of the subjects being studied. They enable a comparison of course related to subjects like ‘Forensic and Archaeological Science’ to take place, using the subject term, or just a code number like ‘027’. The National Student Survey (NSS) results include a breakdown by JACS code and would be a useful way of linking subject to degree result, via the Programme Code that appears in both spreadsheets.

How comprehensive is the data?

It is possible to imagine a law student regularly visiting the library in the HughAston building, using the bookstock (and perhaps more the printed journals) without borrowing any, relying on research available through HeinOnline and Westlaw and writing up on their own wifi-enabled laptop. Such a person could easily gain a first class degree without much activity showing up in the data we are able to compile.

On the other hand, the data collected on network access and book loans is comprehensive across all the library sites. Enough databases and electronic journals require Athens authentication to act as an indicator of electronic research activity. It should be possible to gain a picture of the broad trends of library usage and its relation to academic success, if not to ascertain the sesctret of any individuals success.

About Philip Adams

Senior Assistant Librarian at De Montfort University. I have recently introduced a Single Sign On service for the library's databases and electronic journals. I am interested in digital preservation and the use of data to measure a library's impact. All comments own.
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