Your data is only worth collecting if you use it effectively! How do you know what data will help you with your frontline advocacy message? Use this checklist as a guide.
The right data:
- Is easy to understand . No one wants to look at your spreadsheets. Take your data and boil it down to an easy-to-understand format. Make it clear almost at a glance. How many customers has your library had this year? How does it compare to last year? How many library cards have been issued? How many were new this year? How many people participate in children’s programs, teen programs, computer classes, book clubs?
- Does not overwhelm the reader or listener. Sometimes less is more. Making two or three points effectively is far better than trying to make six and watching the reader or listener lose interest.
- Clarifies the point you are making or the problem you are addressing . If you want to make the point that retaining library hours are critical, go to your data that shows how heavily your library is used (and by whom) by day of the week and time of the day. If you need to add computers, show not only their daily use and wait times, but also how heavily your library’s classes rely on them.
- Is relevant to the reader or listener . Some knowledge of your “audience” and their interests, whether they are library customers, friends, relatives or acquaintances, should guide the content of what you tell them.
- Shows the positive impact your public library has on your community . If you are trying to increase your job searching resources, collect data on the number of unemployed people who have taken job-related skill building classes at your library. If you want to expand your services to teens, show how their after-school presence at the library has reduced problems elsewhere, such as at the mall.
- Is part of a bigger picture. Do you want to talk about a national trend, such as people seeking college and career information, about which you don’t collect direct data? Take the idea generated by the national trend and tell the story of one of your customers who used your library’s career guides to help launch herself in a new job direction.