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How to collect statistics, and where from

The most usual source of statistics for journals, e-books and databases is the publisher or the vendor. Statistics are provided on a monthly basis and obtained through password controlled access to a website. As inevitably different sites will need to be accessed, the task of obtaining statistics involves a lot of work.

Sometimes, libraries may provide access to e-journals via a gateway service such as SWETSWise, which links with the relevant vendor site or service, or an aggregator such as ProQuest or Lexis Nexis which hosts content from multiple publishers. Such services will normally provide data on usage, giving rise to the problem mentioned above of the inconsistency with which publishers report these usage figures. The authentication service Athens also provides statistics, including ones about the user, for example whether he or she is on or off campus.

For visits to the library website, access to in-house digital documents, and electronic enquiries, web logging software is available. Library management systems will also provide usage information.

However, by far the biggest source of statistics will be those from publishers and vendors. The reliability of these has been greatly enhanced by the work of COUNTER, whose international standards for journals, databases and books are described in part 2, "What statistics should be collected?".

COUNTER’s work built on a number of initiatives. The International Coalition of Library Consortia was set up in 1996 by a group of library consortia in North America, Australia, Asia and Africa to develop guidelines for statistical measures. The Association of Research Libraries e-metrics project had similar aims for the USA, as did the e-measures project.

As more publishers have become COUNTER compliant, usage statistics have become more reliable: as of May 2008, 94 publishers, from both sides of the Atlantic, have signed up to JR1. Far fewer, however, have signed up to the book or database standards.

The Codes of Practice also specify how the data should be cleaned up (for example, only intended use must be recorded), and how often to report and in what form.

SCONUL provides a list of databases, serials and e-books, as well as a guide to the sources of statistics: .

Other methods

Obtaining existing statistics is not the only possible data collection method: some studies have used deep log analysis (records of when, and what, was viewed from the log data generated by the server), or surveys. Observe the following examples:

  • The Lairah project looked at use of web-based resources by humanities researchers, using both deep log analysis and a questionnaire, the latter’s object being to compare what people thought they were doing with what the log reported that they did (Warwick et al., 2008)
  • A web-based survey was carried out at the University of Denver Penrose library to assess knowledge about and usage of the latter’s extensive collection of e-books, and generated 2,067 responses (Levine-Clark, 2007).
  • A survey of over 9,000 library users was carried out in four disparate academic health science libraries in the USA between 1999 and 2002, to establish among other things usage of electronic resources (Franklin and Plum, 2002).