The teacher librarian must make decisions based on sound data.

yes graphicAfter conducting a survey, we found that many of our electronic databases aren't used effectively.

Our collection mapping provided interesting insights into the strengths and weaknesses of our collection.

Our focus group indicated an interest in a graphic novels club.

These insights were derived from data gathered from students and teachers. Effective data collection is an essential element of an evidence-based program.

eye means readRead C.A. Brown's Planning Portfolios: Authentic Assessment for Library Professionals by Carol Brown in School Library Media Quarterly, 5, 2000. Portfolios provide authentic measures that give a vivid picture of a person or program. The final product is unique to the creator and the institution that assigns it.

eye means readThis section of the course contains the following related topics you'll want to investigate: Collection Mapping, Inventory, Library Media Program Data Sources, Surveys.

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What information should be gathered?

Evans (1987) identified eleven broad categories of information that should be gathered for collection development purposes. However these categories apply to all aspects of the curriculum. Some ideas are listed below:

Historical Information

Geographic Information

Transportation Information

Legal Information

Political Information

Demographic Information

Economic Information

Communications Systems Information

Social and Educational Information

Cultural and Recreational Information

Community Information

Curriculum Information

Internal Organization Information

Answer these questions about your local school. What other categories or questions would be appropriate for your local area?

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What are some options for data collection?

You can find information in a variety of places including the students, parents, teachers, school district adminstration, Chamber of Commerce, news services and the media, or through Internet. Government agencies, local census data, and the public library are other good sources. Many government and local website contain demographic information.

There are many ways to gather this information.

Collection Mapping. A collection map is used to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a collection.

Example - a collection map activity identifies a weakness in the area of physical science. The teacher librarian meets with members of the science department to discuss whether the collection is meeting the needs of the curriculum.

eye means readExplore our page on the topic of Collection Mapping for more information. Be sure to explore some of the online examples and forms.

Curriculum Mapping. A curriculum map is used to identify the different aspects of the curriculum. It can also be used to vertically and horizontal align standards across grade levels and subject levels.

Example - the library media specialist and a teacher representative from each grade level examine test score deficiencies and seek patterns across content areas. They find that sequencing of information is a problem in all content areas.

Forums & Focus Groups. Face-to-face and virtual discussions can be useful in identifying interests and exploring issues. A forum is a way to get a number of people together in one place. For instance, you might ask questions at a staff meeting or student council meeting. Consider working with a book club at the local book store or attending a PTA meeting. Ask learners to come in and discuss their interests or needs at a club meeting or informal gathering. Keep in mind that these groups don't represent the entire school. For example, many of your most active students are on student council. They may react differently than the students that are smoking in the parking lot behind the school. However these groups are easy to arrange and are a good way to identify people who might be interested in becoming involved with your program.

Example - the teacher librarian collaborates with the reading specialist, public library, and local bookstore on a parent survey regarding parent reading habits.

Interviews. Interview key informants. In other words, ask people. For example, you'll talk to key teachers and students. You might interview a principal. The problem with this approach is that you may not get a representative sample of the people. Your sample is subjective and bias. On the other hand, it's a great way to start. It's an easy way to gather information and doesn't require much legwork. Consider using email as a tool for collecting information from this group.

Videotaped interviews, email question and answer, as well as traditional interviews can all be used to record the ideas and thoughts of students, teachers, administrators, parents, and community members.

Example - the library media specialist works with high school students to interview sixth graders about their use of the Internet.

Internal Data Sources. Many sources of data can be found within your center such as use and circulation statistics. You can find out exactly who is using the center and what materials are being used. Use caution when interpreting these types of data. For example, reference materials may not circulate. As a result, by using circulation statistics alone, you're not getting a comprehensive view of how your center is being used. You can determine use by counting students, classes, and other library use.

Example - the teacher librarian keeps statistics about library media center use.

Inventory. Inventories are used to keep track of the items in a collection. Keep in mind that an inventory includes more than your print collection.

Example - the library media specialist conducts an annual inventory of booksets available in the building.

eye means readExplore our page on the topic of Inventory for more information.

Observation. In many cases very interesting data can come from observing students and teachers. These observations may be done in the library, hallway or classroom. They may be formal or informal. In some cases, videotape can be used to record the information for later analysis. Watch how your students use the facilities in your center. What are the traffic patterns? Where are the most popular places to sit?

Example - the teacher librarian observes how third graders react to the new library "suggested books" posters.

Portfolios. Many schools now ask both students and staff to keep portfolios as a reflection of their work. These can be examined to see whether the library media program is reflected in teacher and student work.

Example - the teacher librarian works with the senior project coordinator to discuss the items included in exit portfolios.

eye means readExplore Teacher Tap: Electronic Portfolios for more information.

Social Indicators. Use social indicators. You can often focus on categories of students. For example, grade, gender, courses, "clicks", social class, and activities are all categories of students with similar interests or needs. You can take a cross-section of this group and conduct a survey. Of course this would take more work, but it would give you a good sample from across the school.

Example - the school library media specialist is considering the creation of a technology or video club and conducts a survey of students in an elective computer class.

Student Work and Assessments. Checklists, rubrics, conferencing, journals, and portfolios are all useful tools in assessing student work as well as collecting evidence for decision making.

Example - the teacher librarian and high school English teachers standardize a literary criticism project rubric.

Surveys. Polls, surveys, and questionnaires are great tools for collecting information and ideas. You could survey a random sample or entire population such as parents, community members, seventh graders, or the hockey team. It's easy to set up an online poll or survey that could be distributed through email or the school website.

Example - the teacher librarian conducts an online survey of the school website users.

eye means readExplore our page on the topic of Surveys for more information.

Web-based Data Sources. Data about other centers, schools, states, and countries are useful for making comparisons. You could also use existing sources of data such as newspapers, websites, historical documents, archives, and other information. Much school data such as school board minutes, past budgets, test scores, and other information can be found online.

Example - the teacher librarian can use Indiana: Accountability System for Academic Progress to make comparisons between Indiana schools.

eye means readExplore our page on the topic of Web-based Data Sources for more information.

Discuss the pros and cons of each of the five information gathering approaches. Which had you tried? Which would work best for a particular type of problem? Why?

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Words of Wisdom

Collecting data is critical across the curriculum.

practicitionerRead about the data collection efforts of three library media specialists:

Our (Nancy S. McGriff, Leslie B. Preddy, and Carl A. Harvey II) strategies and tools for collecting data can be found at our website at Collecting the Data: Templates and Resources for the School Library Media Specialist. The materials focus on how to evaluate and promote the library media program through the use of data.

Carl A. Harvey II
Library Media Specialist, North Elementary School
& President, Association for Indiana Media Educators

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