08. Publish activity data

The publication of library activity data, typically at ‘Title’ level, including the number of transactions such as loans by time period (e.g. Academic Year).

Description

Activity - The publication of library activity data, typically at ‘Title’ level, including the number of transactions such as loans by time period (e.g. Academic Year). This may involve links to user courses in order to support more finely tuned analysis (i.e. activity per Title per period per course). This data will typically be used to make recommendations to users (‘Users like you borrowed …’) and to provide management information (stock optimisation, shelf locations, short loan designation, purchasing recommendations – see UC9).

This is related to but does not include the harvesting of e-journal activity data from Link Resolver usage logs, as undertaken by such as the MESUR project and the ExLibris bX service.
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Actors - Libraries; individuals or organisations that wish to process and use the data
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Data involved - Bibliographic records (may be partial as the downstream applications may not require full records) containing activity data (typically loans, but may also be requests, downloads, searches)
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Data flow - Extract from catalogue and make generally available for download or supply directly to a processing organization. This is a one-way process.
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Does this require Open Data - If the records are supplied under an open data license, the scope for exploitation will be unambiguous; otherwise different licensing constraints may need to be applied depending on use.
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Current Examples - University of Huddersfield and others in the JISC MOSAIC project
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Benefits

Institution - Improved information to assist in stock / collection management; enhanced learning and research experience
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Library Service - Improved service to users including capacity to meet and to stimulate demand (stock, shelving, loan terms)
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Researchers - Access to the behaviour of peers may be especially valuable in the long tail of specialization and in interdisciplinary research
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Students - Recommendations derived from the behaviour of peers (past and present, here and elsewhere) represent the type of practical support expected from ‘modern’ online services
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Replication - Data generated for management information can also be used to make recommendations and vice versa
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Case for not doing it - (1) Effort required and expectation generated may potentially be a distraction; (2) Institutions should not encourage a crowd sourced copycat attitude to study and scholarship; (3) Syllabi differ from place to place and time to time, so comparisons are potentially misleading.
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Motivation

Principles - Activity data is of interest for both collection management and user recommendations. Larger scale data derived from multiple institutions offers the possibility of more useful analyses and recommendations.
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Costs - Cost benefits may be derived from improved collection management
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Services - Management information and user recommendation services covering multiple institutions leading to better purchasing and utilisation
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Rationale for not doing it - Caution regarding the publication of data that could offer competitive advantage (e.g. books used as a proxy for reading lists) or damage reputation (e.g. comparative levels of borrowing) or lead to increased demand and therefore pressure on stock and services.
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Consequences of doing it as Open Data

What will happen? - (1) Greater use of library stock by undergraduates (as evidenced at Huddersfield); (2) better targeted purchasing of stock and electronic access arrangements.
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Potential Risks - (1) Loss of control over institutional data; (2) Demand for harder to service data – for example, course linked recommendations (‘users like you’), sequential borrowing patterns (‘users borrowed next’), diverse activity (e.g. search as well as loan); (3) Concerns (founded or not) raised about potential misuse of ‘personal’ data.
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Potential Opportunities - (1) Development of innovative / compelling third party services based on open data
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Consequences of not doing it? - None other than the loss of potential benefits to the user and in collection management. It is arguable that in the cases of large institutions and major subject areas, activity volumes can support a local service with no need to share data.
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Rights and Licensing Issues

Rights and licensing issues - This use case involves the transfer of some data to a third party. As bibliographic records need only contain enough data to identify the item uniquely (e.g. a minimum of ISBN and Title), there should be no significant issues with commercial bibliographic record suppliers. The more significant legal issues relate to Data Protection, and it will be important to follow normal data protection practices in order to ensure that unauthorized organizations do not gain improper access to personally identifiable data.
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Practicalities

Data exchange formatting - MARC is not a useful format unless specifically demanded by a supplier. Data can be extracted in tagged and delimited formats readily exported from LMS or other logs. However libraries may consider publishing their bibliographic data in formats more accessible to developers; for example, the JISC MOSAIC project recommended an XML- based schema.
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Lifecycle implications - Involves the incremental supply of updated and new records. Annual or termly publication would suit most purposes other than the demands of students to know what their peers are doing right now (which may best be serviced locally from the LMS).
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Hosting requirements - The published data will be small but will still need to be accessible for download.
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Existing systems impact - Not all LMS systems log activity, even for loans; some libraries will need to turn on the logging; there may be demands to integrate with borrower course codes; not all activity takes place in the LMS, though the LMS is the recommended place to start.
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Skills demands - Subject to LMS support of a loans log, this will fall within the capabilities of a systems librarian. More ambitious integration with course codes or other forms of activity data may need additional skills.
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Costs

Setup - The loans log and export software should be part of the local LMS.
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Ongoing - Low, subject to the regularity of records supply
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Cost of doing nothing - No extra costs will be incurred by not doing it. However, doing it without making the data open may generate an ongoing requirement to address requests and to resolve rights issues.
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