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Show me the data!

Just in time for annual report season, Library Girl, Jennifer LaGarde presented Show Me the Data at the TLVirtual Café on Monday night.

This image by Gwyneth Jones expresses the question Jennifer hears from administrators as she travels around the state of North Carolina.  Jennifer contends that we should be able to answer that question before it is ever asked.  Your principal needs to be thinking instead, I don’t know what I would do without my school librarian.

Jennifer asks, “Do you know what your principal’s three most pressing instructional goals are?”  One issue is that we tend to speak library and our administrators speak data.  We need to prove that our work contributes to solving the problems our administrators are worried about, that we are working toward the same goals. We’re all on the same path.

Jennifer offers wonderful advice–creative ideas for thinking about data and sharing it.

Here are some of my messy notes from her inspiring presentation:

Plan: Take time to explore data others have shared.  Look at other librarians’ reports.  Think about your target audience.  Set aside a little time each week to plan

Collect: Your data might include circulation data, but that’s not enough. When shown circulation data, Jennifer’s principal asked, “Why should I care about this? Showing that books were checked out shows that books were checked out.”  Jennifer is a big fan of data walls, but you can kick it up another notch.  Focus on what matters. Follow the money.  Demonstrate what happened to the money you advocated for and spent. Connect your expenditures to student learning.  Focus on your administrator’s priorities.  What are the specific subgroups of concern?  Are those kids checking out books?  Are there specific kids or classrooms or teachers you are working with?  Your Google Calendar is a great way to keep track. Consider color coding your events and sharing screenshots.  Keep track of your displays.  Create displays that engage kids and connect with learning.  Don’t forget to honor qualitative data. (See Sandra’s Hughes-Hassell’s model below.)

Remember that collaboration is not a goal, it is a strategy.  We know that when librarians work with teachers, student achievement goes up. But we need to capture information about our collaborations.  It’s not about the form, but Jennifer uses a Google Doc Collaboration Form (she often filled out herself) to capture collaboration data on a spreadsheet for sharing later.  Report on your instruction.  Take shelfies of your hold shelves.  Keep track of the popularity of instructional materials you’ve bought for specific kids or populations.  Collect data on what student learn during an activity by simply taking a photo of their responses on a white board.  Use student surveys.  Spend some time documenting your individual interventions.

Keep data on how your facility is used–teacher meetings, author visits, after-school study, anything that impacts students.  We are there as a resource to help those activities take place.

Connect: Share your data with newsletters, on your blog, and on your website.  Jennifer pointed to Shannon Miller as an example of a librarian who shares much of her instruction on her blog. Data walls are another sharing strategy.

Create an annual report for your administrators.  Make sure it is administrator-friendly. Jennifer aimed for one page reports, though they grew a bit.  Nevertheless, she wanted that first page to demonstrate the connection between what was happening in the library and student learning.

Reboot: Use your data not just to prepare reports, but to inform your practice and make your instruction better.  Remember that if the numbers don’t add up, it’s the message that really matters.

Here are a few of Jennifer’s slides.

Click here for the webinar archive!

Download the chat archive.







Additional Resources from Jennifer LaGarde:


Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Mernie Maestas says

    I LOVED this webinar and wanted to read the samples, but the link to the annual report posts is not working. I am tasked with making a report of the state of our libraries in the district to our BOE and would really love to see the samples.
    Please let me know how to access them.

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