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Spreadsheet Application

Learning Objectives
• Describe how librarians use spreadsheet applications.
• Discuss the use of data calculation and management tools (i.e., electronic spreadsheets, statistical software) to address administrative and research problems.
• Define electronic spreadsheet and provide examples.
• Describe best practices in spreadsheet production.
• Identify and provide examples of web-based spreadsheet and graphing tools.

Librarians and other information professionals organize data by using Microsoft Excel for a variety of purposes including to track resource acquisitions and circulation and to build catalogs and metadata.

Librarians and information professionals also use spreadsheets to manage library finances and to create strategic plans.

From action research projects to program evaluation, spreadsheet applications and other statistical packages play an important role in the research and evaluation activities of library and information professionals.

Electronic Spreadsheets Defined

cellsAn electronic spreadsheet is created using a software application that organizes and analyzes data in a tabular format. Data is represented as cells arranged in rows and columns. Each cell contains either numeric data, text data, or the results of formulas that are automatically calculated by the program to display results.

Spreadsheets are commonly used for data analysis, budgeting, accounting, and financial reporting in libraries.

Spreadsheets are often used for “what-if” analysis. Once a spreadsheet has been created, users can make changes in values and observe the results. This is useful to library administrators who are planning for budgets or applying for grant funding.

From planning for a new 3D printer to dealing with budget cuts, electronic databases have many library applications. Many libraries conduct action research and use spreadsheets to analyze data.

Setting up Excel

Apple Numbers, Microsoft Excel, and Google Docs are all popular tools for creating spreadsheets.

Google Docs is a web-based option.

Watch Library Budget Spreadsheet with MS Excel shown on the right.
Watch Library Budget Spreadsheet with Google Docs.

Google Spreadsheets and Forms

Google Spreadsheets along with Google Forms is a great combination for collection and visualizing data.

Google Forms allows a developer to create an online form such as a survey that can be completed by library user. The data collected is automatically entered into a Google Spreadsheet.

Watch Using Forms in Google Docs at YouTube.

Spreadsheet Best Practices

folderA spreadsheet is only as effective as the accuracy of the formulas. Before using your spreadsheet, check the formulas with basic data to ensure it’s working properly. Complexity increases the possibility of errors.

Incorrect, incomplete, and inconsistent data are a problem. Double-check the original data set with information entered into the spreadsheet to ensure accuracy.

Embedding facts in formulas is a bad idea. Don’t build constants into formula unless they are universal.

When multiple people are using a spreadsheet, it’s important that everyone understand its operation and use. It’s easy for the creator and users to have misunderstandings that lead to errors.

Web-based Graphing Tools

Although most spreadsheet applications have graphing options, it’s sometimes faster to use a basic graphing tool for creating visual representations of data.

Web-based graphing tools such as Create a Graph are easy to use for all ages.

Although designed for kids, it’s useful for anyone who wants to create a bar, line, area, pie, or XY graph. Make a basic graph.

Try It!
Try Create a Graph. Make a basic graph.

Web-based Survey Tool

Web-based tools such as SurveyMonkey and Flisti are available for conducting polls and surveys.

If you’re looking for a professional tool with both free and subscription services, try SurveyMonkey.

If you’re doing a quick poll, Flisti is a simple, easy-to-use option for conducting a poll.

Try It!
Try SurveyMonkey and Flisti. Think about how these tools might be used for library activities.


Data and collection management tools such as electronic spreadsheets and statistical software can be used to address administrative and research problems.

An electronic spreadsheet is created using spreadsheet software. It’s purpose is to organize, manage, and analyze data in a tabular format.

Web-based spreadsheet applications, graphing tools, and sites for creating polls and survey are available free and through subscription services.

| eduscapes | IUPUI Online Courses | Contact Us | 2014 Annette Lamb (Adapted from earlier s401 materials)

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