Monday, 17 October 2016

Library data part one: variations on a theme

Over the Summer I've been doing a bit of work for the Public Libraries Taskforce and that set me thinking about the data that public library services hold. Each one holds a shedload of data about its resources, its customers and its performance, but each one holds a slightly different shedload to its neighbours. Why would that be?

Technical reasons

  • There are surprisingly few standard data structures in play in public libraries
  • Different management systems hold data in different ways
  • Even if the data has the same structure a different suite of descriptive labels may be in use

Human reasons

  • An organisation might not feel the need to record the data at all
  • The quality — or not — of the data may not be a priority so elements may be missing
  • Naming conventions, etc. may change over time without retroactive conversion, leading to internal inconsistency
  • The data may still be on bits of paper
Having said that there are some key data that are generally common to all, though variable in detail. I'll have a look at those over the next few posts.

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