April, and spring quarter, are just around the corner! The libraryi will welcome students and faculty back with a whole new look at the main entrance, thanks to new carpet, rolled out earlier this week. A nice beginning!
Last week, we got a preview of the kind of library usage data that our new people-counters can produce. Not to be outdone, this week our information resources team produced some great data visualizations of data about the books our students and faculty borrow from other libraries. Tim shared a few of their Tableau visualizations yesterday, including a word cloud from borrowed titles that reflects…well, a certain amount of human nature, if nothing else! But it’s really exciting to see the data skills of our team keep growing, not only for what the data reveals but because it helps us think critically. It’s all too easy to assume that our data is not biased by missing data, or double-counting; and it’s also easy to assume that a data point is equal to the thing we meant to measure. Not always so! A very concrete (and now obvious) example is that for decades, our 24-hour room gate count data has been over-counting use by about 10%. We never considered that restroom uses were getting counted as library uses, until we got our better people-counter going this year.
Speaking of data: as an institution, we are frequently trying to compare ourselves with “peers” and who Cal Poly’s peers are is a matter of continual debate. One point of comparison is research output: there are ‘research analytics’ services, including InCites and SciVal, that compare research output across different universities. I attended a couple of demos recently and found the data interesting; but I found the way people responded to the data even mo re interesting. Attendees of the demo peppered the presenter with requests to look at the data this way, that way. It reminded me a little of someone trying on clothes (“does this one make me look good?”). One of the take-homes for me was how unique undergraduate polytechnics are. There’s a short article on polytechnic ratings that was published a few months back. This one does make us look good (see how Cal Poly is mentioned), but it also suggests some indicators that could be better benchmarks for polytechnics:
“Part of the U.S. polytechnic success story is attributable to their nimbleness, ingenuity, entrepreneurial spirit, and importantly, their remarkable capacity to align program and curricula with emergent educational attainment, career preparation needs, and workforce demands.”
Given the tragic news from Europe this week, and the ongoing election cycle, this piece of news was underreported, but in the grand scheme of things, how the Internet works is important. Several (mostly tech-centric) news sources reported on protests against the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) which took place around the world. Yes, you heard that right: the W3C is usually a hero in the tech world, but demonstrators picketed their meeting this week. Protesters including leaders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said the W3C had “let down many of its biggest supporters when it decided to cater to Hollywood by standardizing DRM as part of the spec for HTML5.”
Have a great weekend,