ST 1/12: Practical statistics in Nairobi


The planning committee for the SCECSAL conference in Nairobi June 4-8, 2012, has asked the SES secretary (Tord Høivik) to do a half-day workshop, rather than present a paper, on the topic Practical statistics in library management

I have revised my proposal (below) to fit the workshop format.

Very few African countries publish library statistics that provide a picture of the library situation at the national level. It is possible, however, for individual libraries to collect their own statistics. This approach works best if libraries learn from each other.

The workshop gives a practical introduction to the use of statistical indicators in the management of public and academic libraries in Africa. We will concentrate on four topics:

  • how to measure lending by sample surveys and by using catalog data;
  • how to measure visits to the library by sample surveys;
  • how to gather data about library use and users, by observation and by questionnaires;
  • and how the measure and interpret traffic to the library’s web pages.

The workshop is aimed at practicing librarians and advanced library students with an interest, but no particular background, in measuring the volume and the impact of their services.

The needs of libraries that lack automated catalogs will be addressed by presenting survey methods that work with card catalogs. Through the workshop the participants should gain a basic understanding of the value of systematic measurement, acquaintance with some basic measurement techniques (for manual and automated lending systems), awareness of some typical errors and mistakes to avoid, and insight in the way statistical results can be used in library planning and advocacy.

The workshop is based on a large number of observation studies of library visitors to academic and public libraries in Norway, on numerous courses in practical statistics for library students and librarians, on the materials developed for a half-day workshop at the 7th Northumbria International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services, in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in August 2007; and on the development of the IFLA Statistics for Advocacy training course (the team was coordinated by the author).


Since the workshops were held before the conference (which was too eartly for me), I ended up doing a paper – on measuring user behavior – anyhow.

But maybe next year …?



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