Sometime during the first week of January, while I was away on vacation, the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for my blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.
I was very impressed with the design, fun, and detail of this automated report. Since it is the start of the new year, reports have been on my mind- assessment reports, annual self evaluations, statistical reports, etc. While compiling many of these reports myself I’ve been thinking of ways to make them more interesting to read, more visually engaging, and more meaningful. This WordPress.com report while being all of those things was also mass generated for all WordPress.com account holders. That’s impressive, but also only possible thanks to all of the statistical analysis tools employed on the WordPress.com account and the flexible design elements of XML.
Pondering the reports creation I got to thinking that it could be possible to create a personalized report for library users. Something like, “your year in learning“. Using data from sources such as patron borrowing record, ILL borrowing record, RefWorks, Primo account, and any other library account linked to your campus ID; a program could be developed to gather and report how many books you borrowed, citations created, and articles viewed. Individual data could then be compared to the aggregate to include such things in your report as: “you read % more books then your peers. Way to go!” or “Faculty viewed x# of articles this past year. Think you could read x more articles in one year?” Going beyond your own data Amazon, Worldcat.org, and other sources could be mined to position your reads within a larger context, such as letting you know what was the top rated book of the year, most read book, most cited work, etc. and noting whether or not you read it.
I have a hunch that many people would find this information more than interesting. It could be used as a self-evaluation tool, especially the comparison data. It could be one way that the library could help students think about how their library usage impacts their GPA. For example, one entry on the report could read: “The average number of books read by students with a 4.0 GPA is #. Make this your new goal for 2013!”
Undoubtedly there will be issues of privacy to think about, but the report would be distributed to the individual only and I’m sure policy could be written and tools tweaked to allow for more collection while ensuring that this data is not made public without a legal request.
I would love to see more academic libraries hiring tech staff to develop products like this that help students and universities better visualize and understand how valuable the library is to learning.