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Q. What is the Normative Data Project?
A. The Normative Data Project (NDP) is a cooperative effort between SirsiDynix, GeoLib and hundreds of public libraries to assemble data useful for librarians who are involved in decision-making. The NDP assembles data on individual library branches and systems as well as demographic information on the people near those libraries. Currently, it has data on all public libraries in the United States and will shortly have data from more than 20 Canadian public libraries.
It also has data from libraries that agree to contribute data. These libraries give us data on circulations and holdings. Users of the NDP can know titles held and which circulate, makeup of the collections by format, Dewey classification of both holdings and circulations from contributing libraries, and more.
These data are available through a Web interface that makes data manipulation and report generation quite simple — even for math-phobes! We often find users who subscribe to the NDP because of one particular purpose only to find that they are now using it to do reports they have done regularly before using the NDP. It is so much easier and more powerful than older methods used to do reports and analysis.
- One is in preparing reports on operations of the library, largely for presentations such as to budget authorities. These reports are often helpful in supplying data to funding authorities and annual reports.
- The second use is making day-to-day decisions such as collection development or resource allocation. The NDP's interface allows reports both to be done quickly on a one-time basis or to be saved and re-executed, for example, every year for the library's annual report.
- The third major use is to study a library's community. For instance, knowing the kinds of facts about a library's users that U.S. Census data can supply allows tailoring a collection in ways that were unimaginable before the NDP.
Library decision-makers have often used data to compare their libraries to other libraries. Typically, these other libraries were similar in some way, most commonly the number of people in the service population. Now, with a new set of data in the NDP, one can identify "Libraries Like Mine" based on a host of criteria, such as demographic characteristics, NCES characteristics, and so on. If you have a branch with 20 percent Spanish-speaking population, you can identify any library in the country which has a similar characteristic. If you look at contributing libraries, you can identify which titles and in which formats circulated the most at libraries with similar demographic characteristics. In times of sparse budgets, knowing which books are likely to actually circulate is a good way to give more bang for the library buck.
We have given access to ALA-accredited library schools so that library school faculty and students can use the NDP for research, too.
Q. Is the NDP the same as Director's StationTM?
A. No. The two applications certainly look alike and are similar in that they make sophisticated analysis quite simple, but they differ in focus. Director's Station runs at a site and permits analysis of a library's or consortium's integrated library system. The NDP, on the other hand, has basic public information on all public libraries in the country and detailed information from a set of libraries that contribute data to the effort.
Q. Where does this public information come from?
A. We have data on public library systems from the National Center for Educational Statistics, Public Library Statistics. These data were recompiled by Bob Molyneux, SirsiDynix Chief Statistician, originally when he was at the National Commission on Library and Information Science (NCLIS). He has continued this work since joining SirsiDynix. We refer to these data as the "NCES-NCLIS" data. There are two series we have available for recent years: the State Summary/State Characteristics data (that is, state level data) and the Public Library Data File. As a part of his work on the NDP, these data are made available to anyone who wishes to use them. The NDP also has additional data derived from reworking the NCES-NCLIS data that are only available to subscribers.
We also have data from the U.S. Census. These data provide demographic profiles of the population surrounding each library building in the United States. Working with Dr. Christie Koontz at GeoLib, a project which has geocoded U.S. public libraries, every Census block within one mile of a building was included in a library's "default market area." Of course, in a large city, a library may well draw its users from a market area less than a mile and in rural areas from more than a mile. But this method has provided a default demographic profile of each of the almost 17,000 libraries in the country. We also offer a consulting service to guide libraries in the formation of market areas that more accurately reflect the realities of their communities, and are working with various library systems to that end.
The census information (all by these default market areas) includes:
- Total population
- Household demographics
- 1999 household income
- Educational attainment
- Linguistic isolation
- Family household poverty status
- Language spoken at home
- Population in poverty by age
Using the census data, one can get a very detailed profile of a library's likely users.
And, in cooperation with GeoLib, we have data on locations of libraries. This information is essential in locating the libraries and is key to providing context to the Census data.
We are often asked about more up-to-date data. Various agencies — such as states or local planning departments — update census information locally. There is no practical way to include these local data in a project of this scope nor any assurance that the various methods used to update local census information would be comparable. In cases such as areas affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, clearly the demographic changes will take some time to be understood and for the U.S. Census Bureau to survey and then publish the data. But these kinds of radical changes are unusual.
Of course, as a general rule, everyone would prefer up-to-date data all the time. However, it takes time to survey the entire population of the United States or, for that matter, the 9,200 library systems in the United States. It is difficult to collect data with care with a large population.
Q. How do I get our library to be a "contributor?"
A. Fill out a form on the NDP Web site and you will be contacted. To be a contributor, a library must be a subscriber and then pay a one-time set-up fee. This fee is based on the size of the library.
Once all the paperwork is done, we will work with systems folks at SirsiDynix® Unicorn and Horizon sites to arrange the transfer of data. Currently, a program on your servers would push the data to our servers once every three months. Setting everything up does take time and care, which is why we have a charge for this work.
You can see on our list of current contributors that there are a number already supplying data and more libraries in the queue to have their data added to the NDP.
Q. Do we have to be SirsiDynix library system customer to contribute data to the project?
A. You do not have to be a SirsiDynix customer. We have a detailed document that gives the format we need the data to be in from your integrated library system. The data elements we collect are given briefly on a page titled Accepted Data Sets for NDP and we have a more detailed document for those interested. Any other contributor would be required to develop their own data extract routines and provide the data to us in our format.
Q. How do I get the NDP?
A. The NDP is available for purchase on a subscription basis. The cost varies with the size of library and which options you wish to purchase. To subscribe fill out the subscriber form on the NDP Web site and you will be contacted.
Q. Do I have to be a SirsiDynix customer to buy it?
A. No. The NDP is available to anyone. It is a Web-based application. When you get your login ID and password, all you will need is Internet Explorer and Web access.
Q. Which Web browsers are supported.
A. Currently, only Internet Explorer although we should be adding Firefox and Mozilla soon.
Q. OK, I am logged in...now what?
A. We have several ways to help you get started. Even though the NDP is surprisingly easy to use, it is a new and complex application and one of great power, so there is a learning curve.
There are flash animations to show you basic operations. We will also be happy to do WebEx sessions or answer emails.
As you become proficient, we will be happy to answer more complex questions. A great feature of the NDP is that subscribers can email reports to others for consultation.
Q. What about an NDP for academic libraries?
A. This is an obvious question to people who know something of the literature studies of library use which, largely, dealt with academic libraries. There is a short overview of this literature on the NDP Web site. The core of the NDP is in that tradition because the center of the NDP is the data from the ILSs that tracks transactions and holdings.
We have had discussions with academic library associations about such a thing. Factors that need to be considered are dealt with in more detail in an NDP Blog entry.
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