The collection and analysis of data about collections, systems and services is becoming increasingly important for libraries. For management and accountability purposes. Here are some examples of where such data might be useful: to refine systems based on usage data, to develop data-driven knowledge of user behaviors, to support collection development decisions, and so on.
In this context I was interested to read the proposal to develop a "Scholars' Portal Use Data Service' as an appendix to the 2006/07 Scholars Portal plan [pdf] of the Ontario Consortium of University Libraries. The stated aim is to collect and consolidate resource use data to support collection development and other management decisions. The Scholars Portal pulls together metasearch, access to electronic journals, personal citation management, and resource sharing services (the latter based on OCLC Pica's VDX). It states its goal as follows:
... to provide access to scholarly electronic resources through a set of tools which allow the networked scholar to search, save and integrate these resources with their teaching and learning to foster greater learning opportunities.
They note the need to collect data from a range of suppliers, to integrate it with local resolution and resource sharing data, and to provide relevant management reports on the data. At the moment, they note that the full service envisaged here is not available from a vendor and they need to develop it themselves.
This is a general need, and it is an area where we will see much more activity over the next while. A couple of significant environmental trends support this. One is the development of the COUNTER and Sushi agreements to enable the sharing of data across services. Another is the emergence of products and services in the business intelligence category, such as ScholarlyStats or, with a different emphasis, our WorldCat Collection Analysis service. ScholarlyStats is provided by MPS Technologies, which provides outsourcing services for publishers.