Comparing statistical information

In the beginning of the project we collected and shared plenty of statistical information about our libraries and universities. The plan was to compare the activities and results. Areas were

  • Library areas, facilities and equipment
  • Services for the public, including loan, ILL and user training
  • Collection management, bibliographic records
  • Institutional repository
  • Library staff, both number and staff training
  • Financial data

Statistical data will give more value when comparing with others or with oneself, over time, but which statistics can be compared? One example is loans. Number of loans is easy to compare, and the numbers can be extracted from the library systems. For 2013 we have the following statistics for loans, visits to the libraries and size of collections. But we miss important data, e.g. on downloads of articles, and use of e-books.


*) Include renewals, for NTNU is for example the number for first time loan is about 50%.

**) Apply to the whole institutions, not just the medical libraries. Medicine has focus on articles more than books, so these numbers are not valid for medicine.

How to compare?

We can observe that NTNU and UCL have quite similar number of loans, and almost twice as much as UEF, at the same time  NTNU and UCL have almost twice as many visits as UEF. And the inter library loan at NTNU is three times as high as at UCL. Can we see any correlation at all? It is also easy to compare interlibrary loans. Use of collections in medical libraries tend to have a predominance on articles, at the same time prices of electronic journals are increasing more then price of books. This mean that no library are able to have all the journals needed in their collection. So ILL can say something about the quality of the library collection – and also about the size of the media budget. An example: the NTNU Library (BMH) use about 2.5 % of the media budget on buying copies, a very small amount when more than 90% of the budget is used on electronic resources and journals.

Many element affect the statistics and the use of library services. Number of loans must be seen in relation to the size of the universities. The NTNU part of BMH serves 3000 students and 11000 staff members at NTNU and St. Olavs Hospital. UCL serves about 6000 medical students and 760 academic and research personnel, and the UEF Library serves a total of 3000 university staff members and 15 000 students (about 1400 medical and dental students). Other elements affecting statistics are size of the collection, how updated is the collection, acquisitions per year, number of users, the amount of e-books and e-journals, the number of printed books replaced by e-books and so on.

Should we be able to compare, we must use indicators; this will be discussed  in a separate blog post. Examples of other useful indicators could be

  • Number of e-journals / download of articles
  • Number of e-books / number of pages read
  • Loans from library collection / ILL
  • Loans from library collection / number of students

As an example we can calculate the relation between visits to the library and loans. NTNU have 0.42 loans per visit, while at UCL and UEF are respectively 0.17 and 0.1 loans per visit. If this is done for several years, one can get a picture of how user activity in the library develops over a period of time. And then it also gives more meaning to comparing libraries.

Follow the money

When we started collecting data, we did not know how to compare. We have lots of data, but not necessarily the most interesting or useful data. It became clear that though we all three are medical/health sciences libraries that serve both faculty and university hospital and also other users, we are neither organized nor financed in the same way. Due to these differences  it is difficult to compare economic data. Yet, it would be useful, and the library directors are keen to compare both financial and other data. While visiting the three libraries, we had discussions with the  library directors and got suggestions for further work on statistics and data. In Trondheim we were encouraged to measure the impact of the library, and to look at the connections between quantitative and qualitative indicators. In Louvain-la-Neuve we talked about library statistics and economics, and that it is important to seek out at least some comparable indicators nationally and internationally. In Kuopio we discussed statistics and other data as useful background information.

Next step for our project is to find indicators for library performance. More on this topic in another blog post.

Interviewing library users (part 3)

Today we talked to the users of the Kuopio University Hospital (KUH) Medical Library. We asked them the same questions that were asked in NTNU/BMH library and UCL Library.

Our questions were:

  1. What do you use this library for?
  2. Why do you (study/read/work/group work) right here?
  3. Where would you study if the library did not exist?

All the people we approached, except one who was in a hurry, were happy to participate in our small interview. We have chosen five different spots and talked to five individual users, as there are currently no rooms for group work. 

Where we interviewed the users

Where we interviewed the users

We spoke to four medical students who were studying for exams, reading library books and own books. Two of them were also using computers — one after waiting for an hour, another one for an hour and a half, having used the waiting time for reading. One interviewee was a nurse who came to search for information, to read new journal issues and to take a look at a recent doctoral thesis.

Two of the students had taken the first computer that became available, one had chosen a carrel booth as a second choice, and one had chosen her favourite place for quietness and for being able to sit by the window. The nurse was standing close to the information sources she needed. The quiet atmosphere was appreciated.



If they could not use this library four of them would have gone to the learning center or the campus library and one would have studied at home.


Marketing and targeting

Marketing library services and targeting them to different user groups has become essential in libraries. We explained in a previous post that marketing is an interesting topic for us all, and in another post how UCL library has approached students with humorous yet informative videos.

Choosing the right marketing tools is important. Some of our tools are similar but there are also differences, and ideas to learn from.


  • Website
  • Intranet
  • Blog
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Brochure  and business cards
  • Events in the library (“Fagsnack»)
  • Info displays

The Medicine and Health library (BMH) has a communication strategy which purpose is to explain and provide guidelines for how to use communications strategically to reach BMH’s  overall corporate goals. BMH  shares a website on WordPress ( that serves as a common entry page for BMH users, across organizations. This page also links to NTNU and HIST library pages. BMH has common Facebook and Instagram accounts, while the Twitter account is currently only run by NTNU.

NTNU library congratulates the Nobel prize winners

NTNU library congratulates the Nobel prize winners



  • Website
  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • Leaflets
  • Posters
  • Basic information literacy training open to everybody
  • Participation in (future) students events

The most visible marketing effort of the UCL library is the Biblio-Jack project. They have a team that aims to build a new, modern image for the library. The team has made a detailed marketing plan for the project that started in 2013 and has now produced four videos on YouTube and a Biblio-Jack universe in Facebook. In Facebook the characters of videos start discussions in order to invite students to ask and comment.

Logo is a marketing tool.

Logo is a marketing tool.



  • Website
  • Intranets (both university and hospital)
  • Blog
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Info displays
  • Leaflets & bookmarks
  • Basic information skills training open to all users
  • Visits & stands (e.g. welcoming weeks for new students, staff meetings)

UEF library’s current communications plan is for years 2013-2015 including both external and internal communications. Each of the library services — customer services, collection services, internal services, KUH medical library, online resource services, training and information services — has an action plan.

Pop-up library to reach out to new students

Pop-up library to reach out to new students


Marketing professionally

Library services for both students and staff — researchers, professors, health professionals — must also be targeted according to their aims and interests but that is not easy. Analysis of different user groups and their information behaviour and needs has not been conducted in any of our libraries. In NTNU/BMH library a focus group study has been made before moving into the new library (available in Norwegian: Tilgjengelighet, fleksibilitet og kompetanse = Availability, flexibility and competence).

Marketing is an important and interesting field for libraries and libraries should employ also marketing professionals to develop and maintain the strategies and infrastructures for communicating with both individual library users and on organizational level. They can also take the user point of view and act as interpreters between librarian viewpoint and customer needs.

Ebooks are also books.

Ebooks are also books.

Libraries and library staff are also always marketing when they are communicating with the customers — e.g. at the service desks, when giving courses/training, and other settings, such as formal and informal meetings.