Awhile back I wrote about the value of data walls as an advocacy tool in the library. Since then, a month of school has gone by and I've had a chance to fill my own walls with numbers. I actually just put up September's numbers today and the response was immediate. Within minutes of the data going up, students were coming in to the library asking questions: They wanted to know more about the number of books that were circulated, what the busiest time of day was and even where they could find some of the (gulp!) non-fiction selections. (One of my goals this year is to increase non-fiction circulation, so these last inquiries felt like a big, BIG victory to me!) But students weren't the only ones paying attention. Several teachers came in to comment on the biggest readers for September (the top dog being a shy, sweet ELL student) and a couple even asked about the most popular books. I love it.
It's difficult to see, but to the side of my data wall, I post questions and answers. (I dream of painting a mural on that wall containing the famous Neil Gaiman quote about how Google can help you find answers, but librarians can help you find right ones - but that's a few paint cans away). Most of the time, they are questions that someone really asks me in the library (like, where (geographically) was Charlotte's Web set?) but sometimes they are questions of my own design. That said, there's been so much interest already in the numbers I posted that I asked a math teacher pal to help me create some math problems related to September's library numbers - the kinds of questions the kids might see on later tests. I'll post these on the q/a wall and see what kind of response I get. (I always offer "fabulous prizes" to the scholars who come up with the answers first). It seems like a fun way to get students interested in library data - plus, as someone who has spent her whole life avoiding math, I'm always looking for new ways to get kids to do the calculating for me.
In the meantime, I'm learning a lot from my numbers too. For example, I was totally shocked to learn that the most popular book last month was actually The Test by Peggy Kern - a recent addition to the ever popular Bluford Series. I knew these books were popular, but if you'd have told me this little paperback would beat out Darth Paper, Origami Yoda, Wimpy Kid and the Hunger Games, I'd have scoffed. To be fair, The Test only edged out these other great books by a circa or two, but still, I love it when the little guy wins. Way to go, urban fiction!
All in all, it was a big month for our students and the library. I checked out just under 5,000 books, worked with 63 classes, served 1785 drop in students, hosted a book fair and managed not to lose my mind. These are important numbers to share, but they've got me thinking about other, more curriculum driven, ways to make meaningful use of library data. I've got to chew on this further, but I have a feeling this is just the beginning of how I spread the gospel of library throughout my school. That said, I'd love to see other data wall examples. If you're collecting and sharing library data this year, please let me know where I can ooh and aah at your offerings.
Speaking of sharing....
It seems like these days, all library news is bad. We hear time and time again about jobs being cut and budgets being slashed. And while it's important not to turn away from such facts, I have to tell you, it feels good to be sharing some library joy. Which is part of why I was absolutely thrilled when my local paper ran a FRONT PAGE(yes, you heard me!) story about our recent Darth Paper Party. The angle of their story had to do with how teachers are having to be creative when it comes to funding special projects or buying basic supplies for their classrooms. I love that even though they did a good job of highlighting the hit libraries in my district have taken in the last few years, their primary focus was on the positive - showcasing how teachers and librarians are willing to do whatever it takes to serve students.
To me, this is the exact message I want to get across as I seek to share information about my library and the students I serve. Honestly, I just can't get into the whole "whoa is me" victim mentality that times like these often produce. Not only is it no fun, but, frankly, it just doesn't work. Yes, times are tough. And yes, that means we all have to be creative when it comes to providing our students with the resources and services they need. However, our students deserve quality programs and quality programs need support. This is the message we need to be sending. Libraries have a positive impact on students and, therefore, deserve support. The end.
PS: Some of you may have noticed that the gator on my data wall has received something of a face lift. After spending a great deal of time lamenting my last effort as turning out to be something more akin to an aardvark in lederhosen, as opposed to a parachuting alligator, I decided to try my hand at drawing a gator using my iPad and a free app called Art Studio. Now, while I fully admit that this gator took me significantly longer than his freehand counterpart, this one also makes me look like a cartooning prodigy. It's amazing how much better I am at drawing alligators (and everything else) with the iPad - proving once and for all, perhaps, that I am an artist in need of assistive technologies. (How did it go from the iPad to my bulletin board, you ask? Well, once the image was finished, my friend projected it onto the wall and traced it onto construction paper one afternoon when I wasn't looking. All I had to do was cut him out and run him through the laminator - a harrowing experience, I can assure you).