It’s been a while since my last column, and my bag of ideas has found itself overflowing with useful links on a myriad of topics. Seeing as how it is the holiday season, and I couldn’t choose a single topic any more than I can choose a single dessert at the holiday table, I decided to celebrate the spirit of giving with a mash-up approach, a veritable stocking stuffed full of metric-centric resources and commentary.
A stocking usually has something eye-catching and especially relevant sticking out of the top. So, let’s get this party started with a goodie bag of altmetrics, an alternative approach to metrics that measure the impact of scholarly research outside the ever-so traditional confines of citation-based metrics. In today’s online world, measuring scholarly footprints is no longer as simple as tracking formal citations. Not only has social media and the increasingly pervasive information super-highway introduced new channels for broadcasting and sharing works, but it’s also ushered in the world of open access and an ability to immediately both access and share scholarly publications. So, for example, how do we accurately capture the impact and value of work that may not only be formally cited, but may also have been shared through social media channels at length? Enter altmetrics, the buzzword that, although making its rounds since 2010, recently skyrocketed in popularity. If you haven’t noticed, even familiar faces are starting to climb on the bandwagon, such as EBSCO, who recently partnered with Plum Analytics.
Katie Brown, our library director here at Charlotte Law, introduced me to the concept when she was first hired. She also presented at the annual meetings of both the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) and American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) this year, demonstrating some of the new altmetrics tools for assessing and tracking scholarly impact. Even the latest issue of the AALL Spectrum featured an article on altmetrics, which did a stellar job of providing an accessible overview of the field, highlighting various tools you can use for measurements, and clearly explaining a variety of reasons to consider utilizing altmetrics in your own sphere. If your curiosity is piqued and you want to learn more, here are a few more resources I’ve found:
- The Altmetric Bookmarklet can be installed on Chrome, Firefox or Safari, and allows you to find article-level metrics for any paper you’re reading on your computer.
- Publish or Perish is a free software program that retrieves and analyzes academic citations and raw data from both Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search, providing metrics that allow you to present your research data in its best light.
- Altmetrics for Librarians and Institutions: Parts 1, 2, & 3 give a comprehensive overview of altmetrics in plain language. Part 1 covers the basics; Part 2 is specifically geared towards librarians, focusing on ways altmetrics can assist with selection management and illustrate collection value, providing you with real-time stats and increasing the value of the guidance you give to your own research community; Part 3 focuses on using altmetrics in decision making within a greater academic context.
- The April/May 2013 ASIS&T Bulletin features a special section on altmetrics with a variety of more in-depth and specialized papers that demonstrate the broadening scope of altmetrics scholarship.
- Scholarship: Beyond the Paper by Jason Priem is a somewhat technical piece, written by the founding father of altmetrics, but is definitely an interesting take on the future of altmetrics and the possibility that the traditional peer-reviewed journal and article approach is transitioning into an all-new scholarly communication system.
So let’s dig a little deeper into our stocking now, shall we, and see what the smaller gifts underneath may be?
David Lee King, one of my all-time favorite librarian bloggers, recently did a whole series of posts on “Analytics for Social Media.” King discusses social media analytics that his library tracks, starting with activities analytics, then moving on to audience, engagement, and referral metrics, and finishing up with the grand master of social media analytics – return on investment (ROI). What I enjoy is that he not only explains what metrics he collects and exactly how he counts them, but he also succinctly explains WHY he counts them. As he keeps his posts tastefully brief, I’ll let his words speak for themselves.
Did you miss the webinar from the Philadelphia Chapter of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) on “Leveraging User Data for Strategic Decisions”? Never fear – the recording is available online. This webinar provides great examples of how two libraries are gathering user data to help make business decisions and to improve learning environments for patrons.
This blast-from-the-past blog post is a great reminder that you shouldn’t just be counting – you should be COLLECTING. Mary Ellen Bates has three, and only three, great questions to ask patrons after every job:
- Did we meet your information need?
- Would you like us to do additional work on this or set up an alert?
- How was this information useful to you?
Bates suggests that while not all patrons will respond, the testimonial information you get from these questions is invaluable in telling the true story of your library and its net worth. Make reports to management including the best stories and link it to any new initiatives you’re exploring. Bates also suggests, if applicable, developing a multiplier to represent how much time your research saves other employees, so instead of reporting the number of research hours you’ve done, you can report the value of the time you’ve saved. Basic counts then become a clear measure of impact on the bottom line.
And last but not least, as Santa supposedly covers the globe in a single night, here’s a little international flair to bring us home again. Did you know that the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has a Statistics & Evaluation Section, and even an e-Metrics Special Interest Group? Did you know that this section created a Library Statistics Manifesto in August of 2008 to serve as a certified document about the importance of library statistics? And, more importantly, did you know that they keep an up-to-date bibliography on the “Impact and Outcome” of libraries, including resources on impacts on information literacy, academic success, society, electronic services and more? The IFLA Section even joined forces a few years ago with some other major players to develop and test a new set of statistics that could be used by libraries worldwide. Collecting these statistics regularly on a national basis could provide reliable and internationally comparable data of both library services and library use.
And that brings us to the end of our stocking. At least it wasn’t an orange stuffed in the toe, right? Happy holidays to you all, and as always, feel free to send any questions or topics you’d like for me to cover in the future to firstname.lastname@example.org. Nothing makes my day brighten quite like hearing from a reader.
Technical Services Law Librarian (TSLL) is an official publication of the Technical Services Special Interest Section and the Online Bibliographic Services Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries. This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue and is reprinted here with permission.