Reviews: Collecting customizable stats with an Access database

Title: Collecting customizable stats with an Access database
Contact Information for Product/Service:
Microsoft® Corporation http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/access
Reviewer’s Name and Contact Info (email):
Janie L. Rager
Librarian for Instruction and Information Services, Associate
Saint Francis University
Loretto, PA
jrager@francis.edu
Date of Review:
  1/16/2012

Tic, tic, tic. Seeking a technology that would allow us to move tabulation of reference statistics into an accessible form, I sought out our Instructional Technologist to help identify the best tool for the job. Access database software allows you to create complex tables to track reference interactions, then summarize and report large quantities of data with just a few clicks. Once built to your particular specifications, multiple points of service are easily tallied from large quantities of data. Some of the points of service we track are activity or type of interaction, librarian, and media form (IM, e-mail, phone).

Quick entry of data can be achieved through a table or a form, which clears with each new record added. It has expanded our tallies to multiple and new points of service, with less confusion for staff in the decision of where any one interaction should be categorized. Customizable fields, drop down menus and auto fills save time in documenting reference interactions. It promises easy data cleanup through the use of sorting by multiple fields, is compatible with mail merge operations, provides an avenue for the user to attach files to any record i.e. an assignment file, through a specialized field. However, it’s true power lies in the ability to build queries that modify the original data and then can be set to summarize large quantities of data and assist in creating reports.

Data usability is achieved through the use of filters, sorts or queries that gather, modify and calculate large amounts of data with relative ease. My library uses the Make Table Query to begin the process of reporting statistics. This particular query pulls the data out of the original table based on set parameter values and builds a new Month Table containing only the data specified through the query.  Our statistics are reported monthly in a year-end report, so the dates of the current month serve as the parameters for our Make Table Query. Other queries are then designed to run using the Month Table to gather and count interactions for specific points of service.

Its features are numerous and require a little training to be able to utilize it to its maximum potential. Secondly, the database file can be open for use by only one librarian at a time.  This issue is easily handled through the creation of a database file for each librarian to track their individual statistics. Then each month, the statistics are copied and pasted into a separate Access database created to maintain all stats as well as run the queries that tabulate the points of service reported.

Those wishing to organize and search through large amounts of data as well as, seeking a budget friendly alternative to tic sheets, will find this tool to be the right one for the job. In conclusion, this tool was a natural first step for my library toward converting those age old tic sheets into accessible and usable data. Time spent discussing the points of service to be tracked and the planning of the data fields is essential to creating a usable database. The learning curve is worth the effort given the amount of data it lets you manage, modify and report. Find your nearest Instructional Technologist, attend a community class, or teach yourself through the many publications available on how to make your own customizable Access database.

Disclaimer: This posting is an independent review and is not affiliated with, nor has it been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved by Microsoft Corporation.

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.

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