ST 25/10: The task ahead


The GLOSSA project was started at the Milan conference in August 2009.

IFLA asked the Statistics and Evaluation Section to produce – and test – a one day course on statistics for advocacy. The Section set up a small team – consisting of Colleen Cook (US), Toni Feliu Oller (Spain) and Tord Høivik (Norway) – to produce the course materials. IFLA also financed an international workshop – which was held in the Hague in December 2009 – to provide input and guidance for the production team.

Chania and Gothenburg

With the kind support of the organizers we were able to test out the course at the QQML2 conference in Chania (Crete). The participants evaluated the course. This led to some adjustments after Chania, but in the main the design seemed to work well.

A second round of testing will take place in Gothenburg, on Thursday August 12. Here we will conduct three or four parallell sessions. When the results of this workshop have been incorporated into the course materials, the Section will – as I see it – have completed the task we were assigned in Milan.

Next stage

What happens next? I take it for granted that the Section will continue to be involved in the future as well. Our goal is 

to promote the compilation and use of statistics both in the successful management and operation of libraries and in the demonstration of the value of libraries outside the profession.

Using statistics for advocacy is clearly a central part of our mandate.

But after Gothenburg the task we and IFLA face shifts from construction to dissemination. A small group can design and test out a new training course. The next step – that of conducting local and regional courses – depends on the interest and commitment of the library associations themselves.

The concrete task

In Norway, during the last five or six years, we have tried to develop a greater interest in library statistics. This has not been easy. We have conducted a few statistics courses for librarians, but have struggled to recruit participants. Only now, after a several years of concerted effort, do we see a greater commitment among policy makers and concerned librarians. The most recent White Paper on libraries states (NO):

An important task ahead will be to strengthen statistical and analytical work. This also includes following and conveying what is happening internationally. Various indicators of what constitutes good service performance both in the archive, library and museum sectors will be developed. These indicators – and specialised studies – should be used to generate up-to-date reports on the archive, library and museum fields.

With this in mind, I would define our new task as follows. – We want to increase

  1. the regular use
  2. of existing [or new] library statistics
  3. by library associations [or individual libraries]
  4. for advocacy [and practical management]


Let me add some comments:

  1. To influence the political environment we will have to provide statistical arguments on a regular basis. Ad hoc studies may lead to discussions and a bit of good will then and there. But their impact does not last for several years.
  2. Some countries – like the Nordic ones – have reasonably good library statistics – which remain underutilized. Here we can do quite a bit of advocacy with existing data. But in most countries of the world such statistics are limited, scattered or lacking. In such countries we must start by collecting our own data.
  3. Usually, library associations are needed to plan and conduct training courses at the national level. But in some countries there may be individual libraries eager to develop competence in this area for their own sake. They could arrange local courses and even develop local data collection. I believe both types of initiative should be welcomed.
  4. Statistical reasoning has its own  logic. It is almost meaningless to separate statistics for advocacy from statistics for management. Learning the one you also learn the other. It is useful to emphasize advocacy, since this helps us focus on the consequences rather than the mechanics of library services. But the skill we need to develop is that of effective reasoning based on statistics.

Training goals

Statistics for advocacy requires librarians that understand and apply numerical arguments in correct and convincing ways. We can hardly expect every librarian to be an expert in this area. Librarianship has many facets. What we can aim at during the next few years is to train a fair number of library professionals

  • with an understanding of statistical arguments
  • in political settings
  • who are willing to share their resources
  • in as many IFLA countries as possible

In the world of today, I believe, such a task can best be managed by the effective use of the web for communication, coordination and course planning, for translation and dissemination of course materials and for the sharing of case materials and statistical data.



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