Agenda:Choosing data sourcesGraphing dataInfographicsTools & Additional Resources
When choosing your data sources, you need to think about what kind of story you want to tell. Is it something you found in the data, or are you looking for data that supports an argument? Sometimes you have to look a little deeper at the data to find a more interesting story to tell.Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/audreyjm529/2706012417
For example, here is a basic Excel graph of the in-class instruction sessions offered at my library over the past few years. It looks like they were increasing, and then spiked in 2009-10. They’ve gone down some since then, which could mean they are in less demand, or perhaps that the demand is stabilizing. Either way, not a great story to tell when you want to show that library instruction sessions have some value.
Let’s try a different approach. How effective are the instruction sessions? Hard to measure, but you can see that when there are more instruction sessions, there are fewer reference questions asked at the desk, over IM, or over email. This is a much better story to tell with the data, and fairly easy to do with an Excel scatterplot.
Basic graphs can be a little boring for telling a story, particularly if you have a lot of them, so try mixing it up by changing the way the graphs are shown. In this case, I removed the y-axis and gridlines, and used a generic person image to represent 1000 visits.
Go bit.ly/excelpic for instructions on how to do this.
Telling your story with chart and graphs is one way to approach it. Another is with eye-catching infographics. The best ones require a lot of work, but you can make some simple ones in Microsoft Word, for example. This isn’t the prettiest infographic out there, but this Venn diagram quickly shows the overlap between the library databases most frequently searched and the library databases most frequently visited.
If you have some design skills and an image editing tool, you can go beyond the typical column graph and make an infographic that tells a better story. Search for “library infographicspinterest” and you’ll find a plethora of examples.Source: http://jaredfanning.com/
I use Microsoft Office products because they are available to me at work, but if you have different spreadsheet or document creation programs, then start exploring what they can do, if you haven’t already. At the very least, you can use them to organize your data and manually create the visual stories you want to tell.Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/breatheindigital/4689159475/
I am not a designer, so I can’t give recommendations on one piece of graphics editing software over another. However, there are several online resources that have cropped up in recent years that make infograhic creation a little more accessible to the average tech-friendly librarian. I’ll talk about some of them in a few minutes.Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/breatheindigital/4689159475/
If you want to get really fancy with your graphed stories, the open source statistical computing and graphics program R can graph data in a multitude of ways not offered by the standard spreadsheet program. Some examples can be found at gallery.r-enthusiasts.com.Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/breatheindigital/4689159475/
If you’re not sure what kinds of stories you’d like to tell, NCSU has been doing some really interesting work in that area, and you might find some inspiration on their Visualizing Library Data hub.
IBM Many Eyes has several visualization options, including several found in Excel, but there are others that are a bit more complicated to create on your own, such as a treemap for hierarchical structures or a US county map for demographic data.Google Chart Tools are a great way to embed dynamic charts on your library website.The down side of these two resources is that some or all of your data will live outside of your institution, which may be a deal-breaker depending on your institution’s policies.
Finally, there are several new infographic creation tools on the web that you can use to quickly make an eye-catching infographic without needing to use a graphics editing program.Piktochart is a simple tool for creating infographics, and it has a few basic free themes, but you’ll have to play around with them to see if they fit the story you want to tell.
Visually Create offers some free canned infographics where you plug in the information and it generates the infographic from that. These don’t seem to be as useful in the library setting. <life of a hashtag example> http://create.visual.ly/graphic/life-of-a-hashtag/
In summary, figure out what data story you want to tell, decide how you are going to tell it, and then use your arsenal of tools to make it happen.Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/phunk/6107733/