Last week Elif and I attended a half-day workshop at the University of Leeds, entitled ‘Improving processes by using activity data‘, which was organised as part of the JISC Activity Data ‘Synthesis’ programme, as a pre-conference event before the 2011 ALT-C conference.
I got the impression that only about half the expected delegates turned up, which seems a bit poor form, but perhaps all too common for a free workshop.
- Tom Franklin (Franklin Consulting): “activity data is only useful if we know who you are”.
- David Kay (SERO Consulting): “the majority of the world doesn’t have an angle on activity data”.
- Mark van Harmelen (Hedtek/University of Manchester): “the top three|challenges|for activity data projects”.
- Rob Moores (Leeds Met): “putting control over activity data back in the hands of the user” (STAR-Trak NG project).
One thing (of many useful things) that came up in the discussions surrounding these presentations was around the “usefulness” (utility?) of activity data, and how that usefulness is ‘sold’ to the parent institution: shades of business case-type arguments around recruitment, retention, impact, resource management, etc., but what about the user experience? What about the service quality (sez Ben Scoble of Staffordshire University)?
There’s a danger that these aspects could be missed in the drive to produce a convincing ‘traditional’ business case for activity data, when they are the things we ought to be concentrating on the most (and I tend to assume that, as long as I still have a job, the overall case for providing a quality library service has already been accepted by my institution… at least for the time being).
Then on to activities (ha ha), and a group discussion around the way forward in making it easier for libraries to gather and use activity data. Placed on the spot by David Kay (a consequence of “Lincoln having done all of this sort of stuff already“!! – i.e. participated in the MOSAIC and LIDP projects), I reiterated my point that we should really only be concerned with trying to build a better service for the library. We shouldn’t have to constantly refer up to—e.g.—the effect on student satisfaction, retention, or attainment. Take them (for practical purposes, anyway) as a given. The case has already been made, and as long as your library is open for business, your institutions wants you to use activity data. They do. They really do.
All that remains now is for all of us (esp. the Synthesis project) to come up with a sane, usable, ultra-lightweight event-based (WWWWWH) data-exchange format which would allow institutions to easily share and re-use activity data: practival interoperability for libraries and l-users across all library domains. There are some good ideas floating around (they pretty much scream Linked Data), and I’m sure you’ll be hearing about them soon.
The JISC Activity Data Synthesis project blog is at: http://blog.activitydata.org/