Title: Tracking stats with Reference Analytics
Contact information for product/service: http://www.springshare.com/libanswers/analytics.html
Reviewer’s name & contact information:
Emerging Technologies Librarian, Florida International University
Date of Review: January 30, 2012
Reference Analytics is a web-based statistics module from Springshare, the same company who brought us LibGuides & LibAnswers. Promoted as a one-stop-shop for the recording, tracking, and analyzing of “all reference transactions,” it allows libraries to build a customizable knowledgebase for all the various reference services offered, while detailing as little or as much information as you choose to input about each of the transactions.
The hardest part about using this straightforward system is setting it up. And the hardest part of setting it up is determining what questions or metadata you want to be tracking, how you want that data to be categorized, and what kind of detail you want to track for each of your transactions. Seeing the blank knowledgebase template was overwhelming at first, so at our library we started by looking at our paper statistics sheet and translating the metadata that “worked” and that we wanted to continue to track into the Reference Analytics system. We then added categories and breakdowns for questions we had not been able to previously track on an 8.5” X 11” sheet of paper. Finally, we took the opportunity to get rid of data that did not work well or that we felt did not provide enough added benefit/detail. For example, is it really helpful to know we had 15 “Level 3” interactions with a patron, or would it actually be more helpful to know 5 of those “Level 3s” were actually in-depth research consultations, while 3 were Course Reserve issues, and the rest were troubleshooting database access? With the Reference Analytics system, you can be that granular and detailed. And if more detail is what you want, they also offer the option to create an unlimited set of “predefined questions” (frequently asked questions) that you can use to add yet another layer of specificity to your statistics tracking.
The beauty part of the system comes into play when you are actually using it to generate reports and want to explore the analytics in-depth. Any of the specified metadata you are capturing can be extracted and even cross-analyzed. Reports, transactions, and statistics can be exported as an Excel file, printed, or downloaded as raster or vector images. Viewing the reports and stats is also a helpful way to refine your metadata and improve the ways you are trying to capture transactions. It is worth noting that the flexibility of the system allows the individual entering their transactions to leave a field blank if it does not apply or they simply do not have the information. You may find that the data is not one hundred percent reflective of your actual transactions as it is dependent on staff entering as much data about each transaction as possible.
Reference Analytics is offered as one of the add-on modules to the Springshare LibAnswers reference system. Out of the box, the module comes with one “analytics instance” but you have the option to add more instances to your subscription if, for example, you also wanted separate tracking for instruction or circulation statistics. However, Springshare also has a more robust stand-alone statistics tracker, LibAnalytics. While Reference Analytics is ideally suited to tracking various types of patron transactions, LibAnalytics is also capable of tracking website feedback, building and study room use, circulation stats, foot traffic, internal workflow, professional development, and product trials- to name a few. We found the possibilities with Reference Analytics to be endless, however, and have been really pleased with how it has helped us track our various types of patron interactions and helped us as we’ve moved towards exploring different models of reference services. Even for larger institutions that have a librarian or team dedicated to assessment and reporting, I think the detail, flexibility, and customization of analytics tracking offered in Reference Analytics is more than sufficient.
Statistics and Analytics: Ways to Record Library Interactions
How do we know if our library community is using the programs or services that our library offers? How do we know if our time is well spent in staffing these services? What products are put there that can help us record and use all of this information to help improve or develop new resources or services to engage our library patrons? RUSA MARS’ Products & Services committee has put together reviews of different options for libraries to track all sorts of stats.
If there are questions about a specific product/service, please contact the reviewer directly. If there are suggestions for other products to review, please contact the Chair of the Products & Services committee, Ngoc-Yen Tran at nttran[at]callutheran.edu.