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Analysing the suggestions book by Katherine Steiner
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Analysing the suggestions book by Katherine Steiner


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  • Staff Meeting, 9:30am, 20th June 2013Thetalk was on my project of analysing the suggestions book, which I took on in January 2013.The book has been in the main reading room for 12 years, since 2001. When it was complete, Helen Garner asked me to look through it and see if I could draw any conclusions from it, identify any trends in suggestions or any gaps in the collection.
  • The book is 220 pages long, and until February 2007 it was the only way to suggest books or serials for purchase, when an online form was set up for the website.Given the amount of information contained in the book, I decided to come up with some areas I wanted to look at, and then collect the data in a spreadsheet. I chose this as spreadsheets make information easier to manipulate and to graph, and also I thought it would be an interesting challenge to create one on a large scale and improve my Excel knowledge.
  • This is a small snapshot of the final spreadsheet, which has 666 entries. The information I collected was based on what I originally thought I might want to know. I thought about: How many suggestions we’d had each year, or each academic term How many were book suggestions, serial suggestions, or comments about the library generally What the comments were about, e.g. photocopying, noise, lighting, opening hours etc. What area of law the book and serial suggestions were about Whether we had bought the resources suggested What languages the books suggested were in Who suggested books – undergraduates, postgraduates, DPhil students, academics How promptly staff responded to suggestionsAfter a long period of transcribing and filling in the spreadsheet, and then a break, I was ready to start analysing the results.
  • This is a snapshot of the graphs and tables I created from the information.
  • About 70% of suggestions were for monographs, 13% were serials, and another 13% were comments about the library. The rest were on law reports, theses and electronic resources.
  • The numbers of comments drop off from 2009, probably owing to the use of the online form. Lindsay has counted that there were 65 online suggestions since July 2011, which would be consistent with about 50 suggestions in total per year, as in 2007 and 2008.Margaret suggested that the peak in 2002 may have been because this was the first year of the Legal Research Skills course.
  • Unsurprisingly, there were generally (although not always) fewer suggestions during the Summer Vacation, when the library is used less.However, there was no trend in suggestions in particular terms.
  • Comments were about a broad range of things, with the highest proportions being collection, noise and stationery.Comments I classified as collection covered: transfers of books to law, problems with cataloguing, books which should be in the reserve collection, and comments about the moys reclassification project.Most of the noise comments were from early in the book (none since 2005), complaining of the noise of people using their laptops in the reading rooms.The stationery comments were also very varied: some on the stationery we sell, some on the staplers and hole punches, some on needing boxes for journals and different labels.
  • Book suggestions showed a similar theme to serials, with most in the international law section, UK, and European law.The fact that more books were not suggested on UK law, which must be the heaviest used section of the library, is encouraging. Hopefully it means that the books we get on legal deposit arrive quickly enough that people are not waiting for them.
  • Since European and international law were popular in the suggestions, I looked at whether many texts were in languages other than English. However, the vast majority of suggestions were for English-language texts.
  • I also looked at whether books and serials that had been suggested had been purchased, and compiled lists of those we didn’t hold.Of the 467 book suggestions, 72 hadn’t been bought, but many of those were not on law, or titles which we have newer editions of. Only 36 of the 72 were books on relevant topics which we didn’t hold at all (<8%). Of these, some are out of print or hard to obtain, and Lindsay is looking into purchasing ~30 of them.Of the 88 serial suggestions, we didn’t hold 12 of them, but only 5 (>6%) of these are on law, and we are now purchasing subscriptions to 4 of them.
  • In conclusion, my analysis was very positive. We purchased or are purchasing almost all items suggested by readers, and I didn’t identify any gaps in the collection, or areas for improvement in our services from the comments. Although the project was a significant amount of work, this was mostly because of the sheer amount of data over 12 years. Since we have approximately 50 suggestions a year, including those from the online form, continuing an annual review would be relatively simple, and would be useful for making sure no orders are missed, which occasionally happened.I had originally thought to look at which status of readers (undergrads, postgrads, academics) made most suggestions, but this was impossible due to the small numbers of readers who left this information in the book (as well as a few DPhil students over the years who suggested lots of books, which might have thrown out calculations). The vast majority of suggestions were also undated, which made it impossible to see how prompt staff had been in responding to suggestions.
  • Transcript

    • 2. 467 88 16 84 3 5 3 Suggestion Type Books Serials Law reports Comments Theses Databases Other
    • 3. 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Numberofsuggestions Year Suggestions by year
    • 4. 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Numberofsuggestions Year Suggestions by academic terms Michaelmas Hilary Trinity Summer Vac
    • 5. Collection 23% Staff 5% Building appearance 8% IT 11% PCAS 7% Stationery 13% Lighting 6% Temperature 5% Noise 14% Rules 6% Other 2% Comments by topic
    • 6. UK law 14% US law 6% International law 23% General and comparative 10% Civil and human rights 3% Criminology 2% Jurisprudence 7% Commonwealth law 7% European law 12% Individual European jurisdictions 6% Other jurisdictions 3% Non-law 4% Other 3% Book suggestions by subject
    • 7. English 87%, 509 French 6%, 32 German 4%, 23 Other 2%, 14 Various 1%, 4 Books and serials by language