We believe that access to timely, accurate, comparable library data is critical to enabling the library sector and users to monitor the delivery of library services and improve their quality. This includes everything from the information librarians need to manage their service day-to-day and that decision makers need to consider the strategic direction on library service provision, to the facts that will inform anyone who wants to know how their local service fits into the national picture.
The Taskforce held a data workshop in December 2015 which looked at:
- existing data sets
- how to improve and increase their usage and make them more accessible
- what data was needed in the future to inform decision making
- how to bridge the gaps in the short, medium and long term
We stated an intention to publish a model data set, and explored this more during the consultation on Libraries Deliver. This idea was well received. In the consultation, discussion included balancing the value of any data collected with the effort needed to capture it, the need to widen data collection beyond inputs and outputs to capture outcomes and impact, and recognition that any data should be published openly and regularly updated.
Publishing such a data set would mean that, for the first time, an open, comprehensive and definitive database would exist which would enable library stakeholders to better understand library service provision across England and within each local authority.
The workshop and Ambition consultation demonstrated the wide range of data that could be included in a model core data set. As a first step, we know there is some really basic data about the numbers and types of libraries available within each local authority in England that would benefit everyone. We want to kick start the process by focusing on collecting and publishing that sub-set of data that we can then add to later.
We’ve collated all the different data sets that currently exist that we can find. These have been verified as far as possible by the Taskforce team and DCMS Libraries team, but the final step before publishing this first dataset is to ask library service managers to verify their data. We’re doing this now and hope that the end result will set the foundations for a more open and trusted library data set.
It’s worth saying that this exercise is not restricted to data relating to statutory libraries as we want to understand all library service provision in local authorities, including details of closures and transfers of libraries to other operating models since 1 April 2010. Most information requests we receive make comparisons with, and analyse current library numbers against, the situation in 2010 so we will use this as the baseline.
Once we have received verifications, we aim to publish the data set around the end of September. We will publish it as open data, as a spreadsheet on data.gov.uk, and it will be the dataset to which any enquirers will be referred for key statistical information.
We intend to create some visualisations based on this data - please get in touch if you would be interested in helping to develop these, or have ideas about things you would like to see.
Longer term plans
This data must be regularly updated and our next phase of work is to look at how a more automated process could be put in place to collect it. Until then, we will carry out a manual quarterly updating exercise using the trusty spreadsheet approach.
And later in the year, we will do a light-touch consultation that everyone can feed into to develop a definitive list of what the full model core data set should cover. More on this nearer the time....
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