Moving the Field Forward: a Kickstarter to Support Law Libraries Statistics

By Sarah Sutherland (Follow us on LinkedIn)

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Libraries are increasingly required to use evidence in their management and reporting to ensure that the services they provide are appropriate and that they are communicating their impact to stakeholders. Library staff also need better insights into how resources are used and what stakeholders need to make decisions that reflect user needs. Better statistics have the potential to drive important improvements in how we manage law libraries, but it is hampered by the fact that much of the value libraries provide is not easily assessed. 

Traditionally, libraries monitor things like how many books circulate or how many people enter the physical space. As collections move online and the use of physical premises shifts, these don’t convey the value libraries actually provide anymore. I have done research which shows that improving the information used in the decisions lawyers advise on has significant value. There are also alternative ways to think about libraries’ contributions.

This is a perfect example of a topic that is poorly handled in the current publishing landscape: it has a small audience, is technically challenging, and is both too small to be suitable for a book topic and too large to be viable as an article. It is also not sufficiently valuable in any individual organization to be something that consultants would be likely to be hired to create, partly because having shared standards that are widely understood and used is more valuable than an individual institution creating something internal.

I am working to build a new way to fund resources like this. My first attempt is a Kickstarter campaign to facilitate the development of a book on statistics for law libraries. I will do primary research to develop industry standards and better understanding to help law library staff develop their management, practice, and reporting using quantitative methods.

In this project I propose to do research integrating a deep knowledge of data and its application in the management of information organizations, and a literature review, as well as a series of interviews with people working in law libraries around the world. This will be integrated into a book which will be made available in ebook and professionally produced print formats. 

My main goal is to develop systems for the particular needs that libraries have for their data. It will also include guidance on how to approach the questions of what to collect and how to interpret it based on organizational goals. Not every organization has the same priorities and data programs should reflect that.

I hope you will be willing to pitch in to help create this resource, or perhaps you will think of your own gap to fill.


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