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Monday, 12 July 2010

Crowdsourcing library research

Reading Snapshots of Laptop Use in an Academic Library crystallised some thinky thoughts I've vaguely had for a while about the possibility of libraries working together on library research.

The very short version of the article is that in their library "28% of students used laptops in existing spaces in 2005, while 62% of students used laptops in the same spaces in 2008". But of course they're not sure exactly what's causing the change. Is it just the changing times? Changing university policy? Changing library spaces? Something in the water? When you've only got one datapoint - your own library - it's hard to see what the real trend is.

But if you had the same data from a whole bunch of libraries then you'd be able to get a better idea of the nationwide/global trends. And if your data was different from that trend, you'd be able to get a better idea of how your local circumstances are affecting what's going on.

I've had thinky thoughts in the past about libraries sharing their statistics and research and stuff and part of the problem I recognised then was that everyone counts different statistics, so results aren't always comparable.

But. What if, when we want to do this kind of research, instead of doing it in-house, we open it up:
  1. stick up a wiki where we can collaborate with a pile of other libraries on deciding the methodology,
  2. stick up a Google spreadsheet where participating libraries can enter their stats,
  3. ???
  4. profit Publish!

Potential for awesomesauce, yes/yes? Does anyone have any burning research questions they'd like to try this with? Because my burning research question is currently "Let's do it!" which, um, technically isn't a question. <looks around hopefully>