Not there yet

Good management data contribute to highlighting the impact of investment in library services. But do Norwegian university and college libraries have access to the management data that they need?

Key Performance Indicators (KPI) help organizations to measure progress towards organizational goals. KPI and similar goal-oriented management tools are well-known and frequently used – also in the educational sector. Goals (often quantitative) are set and must be achieved within a given period of time. University and university college libraries are also measured, and access to quality-controlled management data is a prerequisite for evaluating and documenting current status.

Norwegian indicators

Since 2008 targeted efforts have been made in Norway to design tools that enable libraries to collect relevant and appropriate management data. In 2010 a project group submitted 24 indicators that were intended to provide information about the quality of the individual library and that could also be used to compare the activities of the libraries.

The indicators were collated and developed by the Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority (ABM Utvikling, closed down in 2010), which at that time had responsibility for collecting national statistics from university and university college libraries.

The Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions (UHR), the most important partner of Norwegian universities and university colleges, was positive towards this work. However, UHR’s library com-mittee (UHR B) wished to focus on fewer indicators, and appointed a working group that was tasked with selecting indicators particularly suited for national benchmarking. In 2011 the group proposed four suitable indicators.

National reporting of statistics

During this work it became clear that the basic figures needed to calculate the indicators varied considerably in quality. In order to acquire relevant indicators it was necessary to revise the national statistics for academic and special libraries, one of the main sources for calculating these.

The national statistics form was out of date, and it was somewhat unclear where to collect the data and how to process them. The National Library of Norway, currently responsible for collecting the statistics, appreciated the need, and a full revision of what is to be reported was completed in 2014. The instructions have been updated and a separate list of definitions has been compiled.

At present Norway has a suitable reporting form for the university and university college sector. Figures are derived from the same kind of sources and computed using similar criteria. Since data that are deemed to be important and relevant are now to be reported, the quality will also improve. More relevant figures will lead to more accurate reporting and increased use of the data.

With an updated reporting form in place, UHR B decided to focus on three national indicators: one for infrastructure – Users per manyear in the library; one for the use of information resources – Use of the library’s collections, and one for finances – Costs of media procurement/ access per user in the primary target group.

International approach

All three working groups engaged in this task have based their work on ISO’s standards for library statistics. It was essential, as far as possible, to use the same terms, protocols and definitions as those employed internationally. The main focus was on ISO 2789: Information and documentation – International library statistics, and ISO 11620: Information and documentation – Library performance indicators.

Both these are approved as Norwegian standards. In addition, it was recommended that figures for use of information resources should be based on the COUNTER protocol. By using the same method of computation and definition employed internationally, benchmarking between Norwegian and foreign institutions is now possible.

In 2014, UHR B decided to establish a separate working group with responsibi lity for statistics and management data. The working group will assist UHR B with assessments and information, and will invite institutions to exchange experiences. The aim is to establish how relevant library services can be better integrated in the infrastructure of the institutions.

The first task is to incorporate the national indicators in the Database for Statistics on Higher Education (DBH). DBH is a public database with statistics from Norwegian universities and university colleges and contains different kinds of management data such as financial data and student/staff numbers, but no library statistics. The current status for this work is that automatic calculation of the three national indicators is planned to be in place from 2016. Subsequently these will be registered in DBH so that they are accessible to the public.

Only raw data

In order to prepare indicators, measure progress, compare institutions and achieve goals associated with goal-oriented management it is therefore crucial for university and university college libraries to have easy access to quality-controlled statistics. Once the statistics have been reported to the National Library of Norway, the material will be submitted to Statistics Norway (SSB). They will accumulate, analyse and make the figures publicly available.

Not satisfactory access 

However, the Norwegian Act relating to official statistics and Statistics Norway, forbids SSB to publish statistics that can be traced back to specific institutions. The figures are therefore given only on an aggregate level, e.g. University libraries, Libraries at specialised university institutions etc.

The National Library of Norway also posts the figures on its website, but only as raw data. In addition, the National Library prepares a commentary summarising the main features of the annual collection of data. However, the material is not suitable for finding specific figures and for simple comparison. The objective must be that when the statistics have been collected, both individual institution statistics and indicators are readily accessible and easy to use for everyone.

The answer to the question is therefore: Yes, we have good management data, but access is still not satisfactory. We have made a lot of progress but we’re not there yet. Only when the information is easily accessible to the public will we have reached our goal. Only then will it be possible to utilize the target data efficiently.

Senior Advisor, BI Norwegian Business School, and Head of UHR B’s Working Group for Statistics and Management Data