Reviews: Gimlet – Staff your desk wisely

Title: Gimlet – Staff your desk wisely
Contact information for product/service:
http://gimlet.us/
Reviewer’s name and contact information:

Jaclyn Bedoya
Electronic Resources Librarian
CSU Fullerton
jbedoya@fullerton.edu

Date of Review:
01/08/2012

OK, let’s be honest here: there isn’t all that much to keeping reference statistics for the average library. You want to keep track of where/when/what type of question each encounter is, and maybe even the answers. You’d like it to give you statistics so that you can plan your reference staffing with more than gut feelings. And you want it to be easy to use, and not too expensive. In fact, some libraries are using online shared documents to do them at little to no cost. On the other end of the cost spectrum, there is vendor-supplied software, which includes a lot more bells and whistles. Gimlet, which the Pollak Library here at CSU Fullerton subscribed to long before I started, costs $10/month/branch, and since it’s supported, we won’t ever have to figure out what happened to the server or where the data disappeared. Count me in.

Made by the same people who created Libstats, Gimlet is a hosted library encounter statistics collection program. It allows desk staff to categorize questions by duration, type, patron type, format (email, in person, etc), and location, and automatically records the time the questions were added. Additionally, staff can add tags (some libraries choose to use controlled vocabulary for this), put the question and answer in free response fields, “star” particularly important questions, use the READ scale, and email questions to other staff. On the back end, managers can create statistical reports, including pivot tables, and export their data to other programs (Excel, etc) for further analysis.

We used to use more features of Gimlet, but found that staff found it difficult to keep up with data collection, and were not using controlled vocabulary consistently enough to make the tagging feature useful. Obviously, your mileage may vary. In terms of ease of use, as a reference tracker I find it appealing and intuitive. I can’t speak to the reports side personally, but our head of Instruction & Information Services calls them “awesome.”

We used to host Libstats ourselves, but found that $10 a month is a reasonable amount to have it hosted and supported by Sidecar. (Do I sense a trend?) Systems staff time and server upkeep are not insignificant costs, so economies of scale make the hosted option the best for us. Again, your mileage may vary.

As I’ve mentioned, we don’t use every feature, because we found that some of them didn’t work for our library. Be aware that there will need to be a balance between lots of bells and whistles and how much time staff are willing to take to record each question. And if you’re not going to use a lot of the features, are you better off doing it yourself? For us, the answer is no. At our large academic library, we love Gimlet, and encourage you to check it out if you’re looking to use this type of software.

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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