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portal: Libraries and the Academy 2.4 (2002) 659-663

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Information Standards

Electronic Metrics, Performance Measures, and Statistics for Publishers and Libraries:
Building Common Ground and Standards

Peter T. Shepherd and Denise M. Davis

The use of online information resources continues to increase and is having a tremendous effect throughout the information value chain. Librarians and publishers have had a well-established system for measuring the impact and use of their print publications and collections. However, traditional measures have little application in the world of electronic resources. But the use of electronic resources must be measured with confidence so librarians and other customers can make informed purchasing decisions. Having accurate metrics is equally important to publishers and content providers. In addition to measuring effect of a publication, the usage statistics can be the basis for pricing models that are an important component of any publisher's business plan. A number of new initiatives are paving the way for change. In this article Denise Davis and Peter Shepherd report on four activities that are reshaping the metrics used by publishers, librarians, and information aggregators, and providing an effective vehicle for the library community and the publishers to collaborate for their mutual benefit.

Revising the National Standard for Library Statistics

On February 15-16, 2001, the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) organized an invitational Forum to gather information from the library community and key vendors about the best approach to evaluate the NISO standard on Library Statistics. Due for review in 2000, ANSI/NISO standard Z39.7 details and defines significant library input and output measures as they were collected by various organizations and agencies in the early 1990s. [End Page 659]

This Forum enabled a broad, diverse group of stakeholders to explore their requirements and vision for describing, measuring, and showing the significance of contemporary library services. Forum discussions confirmed that libraries and related organizations have a critical need to demonstrate concretely the value they bring to the communities they serve. Throughout the Forum, common themes emerged:

  • There is critical need for systemic data collection.
  • Different methodologies are evolving to measure network performance (NCLIS), service quality (e.g. ARL's LibQUAL+), impact, and economic value. Additional research is needed to develop new tools and approaches for practical application by the library community.
  • NISO is well positioned to develop a "data dictionary" of terms in frequent use by different constituencies.

NISO Executive Director Pat Harris observed that guidelines and best practices are more flexible than standards, and may be better suited to coordinate the development of evolving common practices. Many of the discussion groups agreed that NISO is well positioned to play a bigger role to facilitate cross-constituency information sharing; enabling specialized stakeholders to build on the work of others and to avoid duplication of effort; to serve as a clearinghouse for standards, guidelines, and other tools across diverse communities with closely related interests; to move beyond defining data elements to provide methodologies for qualitative as well as quantitative measures of library service; to support the development of surveys/measurements for service quality and outcomes; to offer training for the industry on what to measure and how to measure it; to explore tools such as ISO 9000 and the Baldridge Award for application to the library and information industry; and, to create a best practice publication series.

In July 2001, NISO tasked a committee to undertake the third revision of NISO Library Statistics standard Z39.7. The work of the committee to develop a draft standard for trial use was completed in July 2002, and a draft standard is now available for use and comment for a one year review period. The 2002 revision diverges significantly from prior revisions in that it is a database of terms, linking relevant implementation of terms across a variety of survey instruments and standards, including international standards. In addition, a variety of measurement methodologies are presented to offer guidance on the collection and reporting of library metrics, especially electronic metrics. For...


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