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Of Stats and Consistency

New faculty begin their orientation in 23 days. New students arrive on campus 5 days later. But in library world, the school year is nearly upon us. The 6 of us that are here from my department have begun really ratcheting up our productivity to get everything done that needs to be done this summer. We’ve stopped even pretending that the things we just wanted to get done will happen. We’re entering survival mode.

Today we had an important and long-put-off discussion about how best to keep our appointment statistics. That is, what do we record about the hundreds of consultations we conduct in our roles as research liaisons, and how do we do this in a way that’s easy enough that we’ll actually keep up with our record keeping?

Ever since I’ve been here there’s been an Excel spreadsheet on our network space with fields we’re supposed to fill in for each consultation we conduct. But every year we struggle to actually use the thing because it involves several steps, none of which are prohibitive individually, but which put up just enough of a barrier to make record keeping an almost impossible chore. For one thing, there’s the spreadsheet itself. Being shared and on a network, if one person has it open nobody else can add their entries. Then there’s the whole process of remember to open the program, finding your sheet in the workbook, scrolling around to find an empty row in the right area, making sure the formulae we need actually extend to that row, and fixing the formulae when they’ve gone wonky. And did I mention the saving? Yeah. You only find out you can save and that somebody else has the spreadsheet open when you actually go to save your work.

So I figured out a way around the problem. I designed an Access database that helps me track not only my appointments, but also my students and my faculty. Then once a month or so I’d run a query I’d set up to fit that pesky spreadsheet, and export my stats, all in one fell swoop. It worked fine, mostly, especially after I tweaked a bunch of stuff.

But this year we decided we needed a more systematic method that worked for everyone. So we’re going to experiment with an much-shoehorned version of Libstats. It’s not perfect for this purpose, and we don’t have a programmer available to make it work for us. But for all it’s faults, the big benefit will be that we’re all doing something in a consistent way, and it’s all web-based.

And that’s one thing I’ve learned in the last week as we’ve all moved to a new email program. Sometimes it’s worth putting up with some changed or reduced functionality if the program satisfies the needs of a larger group.

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