Subject Guiding the way…


It’s the start of a new month, and one of my tasks at the start of each month is to gather usage statistics. I must admit I rather enjoy getting hold of the raw data: it’s instant gratification. Run a quick report, and hey presto, data! One my favourite exercises at the moment (only an Electronic Resources Librarian can have favourite stats-gathering jobs…) is looking at usage of our Subject Guides, which was a new initiative for this academic year.

The different between looking at usage of Subject Guides as opposed to a database such as ScienceDirect or JSTOR, for example, is that as well as establishing how many times they have been accessed, we can also see how they are being used, and what we might consider to be the most important information presented by them. So when I’m looking at ScienceDirect, I might get very excited when I see that in March 2017, there were just short of 10,000 full-text downloads. That’s a lot of downloads, and a quick scan of previous years tells me that that’s the most we’ve ever recorded in a month. That’s fascinating, yes? Yes, it is. However, I don’t know what that actually tells me, besides “ScienceDirect had a lot of downloads that month”.

Now, I could get clever here. I can look at the JISC Usage Statistics Portal (JUSP) data, do a quick sort of my data, and look at the ten most popular (i.e. most downloaded) titles that month: International Journal of Production Economics; Psychology of Sport and Exercise; Journal of Business Research; Social Science and Medicine; Nurse Education Today; Aggression and Violent Behaviour; Body Image; Procedia – Social and Behavioural Sciences; Clinical Psychology Review; Industrial Marketing Management. Okay, that’s fascinating too, isn’t it? Yes indeed: that’s quite a multi-disciplinary list and if I go further down the ranking I can see this to a greater degree. Anecdotally, I’m aware of users thinking that ScienceDirect and its content may not be relevant to them, but this list confirms to me that there’s much, much more than science-related content available in this package.

So that’s all well and good but again, where does that leave us in terms of how folk use stuff.

Back to Subject Guides.

Who’d like to take a guess as what the most popular (i.e. most accessed) Subject Guide has been, month after month for the past seven months has been? Ebooks at the University of Bolton. In that seven month period, that guide has been accessed 6,489 times. Within that guide, the homepage, Using Ebooks, has proved the most popular, with the page on Ebook Collections in second place. The link to MyiLibrary is the most popular link on the page, and we know that MyiLibrary is our most popular ebook platform: it all joins up. We produce a variety of documentation to help you get the most out of our resources, and the Ebooks at the University of Bolton guide includes a link to a downloadable quick start guide to ebooks. This appears not have been downloaded much at all; the guide to MyiLibrary has, however. Why is this? Are we reaching a point where accessing ebooks is becoming more and more intuitive; you just don’t require the help? Is it more important to have directed help, i.e. platform/database-specific help? The granularity of the usage information from Subject Guides allow us to ask these questions.

Let’s look another guide, Health and Social Care. Health and Social Care doesn’t see anything like the traffic seen by Ebooks at the University of Bolton, Research Support, or Accessing Electronic Resources, but that’s what we’d probably expect: this is a guide specifically for students studying in this area. What I find immediately apparent is that after the homepage, the next most popular page is Databases, journals and articles. That’s of note because that doesn’t appear next to the tab for the homepage. In fact, this usage pattern appears to be the case with many, many Subject Guides. “How do I access journal articles” is a frequent question at the Library Help Desk: it’s all joining up. The most popular links on this guide are the links to CINAHL – by far our most popular health-related database – and ProQuest Central, our most-used database overall.

I’m going to leave this here, as I’ve a feeling I’ve probably asked more questions than I’ve answered, but what all this is telling me is that we can see how you are accessing our information, and we are able to piece together the story of how you are using that information in your studies.


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