Tuesday, April 08, 2014

#CILDC: Library Data Mashups - Samantha Becker, Michael Crandall, and Rebecca Blakewood

Dewcription: The public library field is a bounty of data—the annual Public Library Survey (IMLS), Impact Survey (UW), Public Library Funding and Technology and Access Study (ALA/UMD), Edge Initiative, and other initiatives routinely collect data about what libraries provide for their communities and how patrons benefit from their resources and services. Mashed up with community data from the U.S. Census and other sources, the possibilities for playing with data are endless! Come see how researchers at the University of Washington Information School have been mashing up these data and looking for relationships between resources, patron outcomes, and community characteristics. They provide ideas about how you can do library data mashups of your own using community data together with data you are already collecting or can easily gather. The UW team unveils the beta version of GloPlug, their online data analysis tool built on the powerful new Shiny for R application. GloPlug lets librarians play with library data through a friendly interactive app and instantly produce easy- to-understand graphs and charts. See how your library stacks up against other libraries in communities like yours, how libraries divvy up their budgets, or just explore the data and get a new perspective on what libraries do.

For me the most insightful part was from Samantha, who talked about the "conceptual mash." A conceptual mashup:

  • Guides decision making
  • Gives roughly right idea of the community  
  • Reveals areas for further research
  • Raises questions that need to be validated

With a conceptual mashup doesn't mean that you're actually combining systems.  Instead your analyzing data in one system and using the result to query another system.  For example, how does your community compare to other communities or the state/nation?  You might take Census data, and compare specific data points with another source (e.g., Pew Internet), and decide what that tells you. Not only do you look for what it says, but also decide what questions you have now.  You then will look to answer those questions in whatever way makes sense.

I think we do this more than we know...but I also know that there are more times that this type of "mashup" would help us make more intelligent decisions and ask more intelligent questions.

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