Technology Lending Patterns, 2009-2011: Visualizing Library Data

Table of Contents

Background

The NCSU Libraries has long been a technology incubator for North Carolina State University, lending out a wide variety of items so that students gain the competitive advantage that comes from access to the latest technologies. From laptops to iPads, graphing calculators, GPS units, video cameras and eBook readers, NCSU Libraries provides use of technology to students, faculty, and staff at no cost. The evolution of the lending program from a few thousand annual circulations of laptops in 2001 to nearly 200,000 annual circulations of items of all types in 2010 required a shift in our processes and a need to examine all aspects of our service. This data represents a portion of that effort conducted over the past two semesters.

In libraries, our systems often collect data as side products of services, yet we frequently do not take the time to analyze and learn from that data. However, leveraging pre-existing data stores can aid substantially in data-driven decision-making. In Spring 2011, a study was undertaken examining three aspects of the technology lending program for the 2010-2011 academic year: the length of the wait time for technology lending items reserved by students via the online waiting list, the volume of circulations, and the time periods during which the Libraries ran out of certain items for lending. We hope that by examining how patrons are using our services, we can create better staffing models and make purchasing decisions based on an understanding of which products are in high demand. Examining how patrons are using our services can help us create better staffing models and make purchasing decisions based on an understanding of which products are in high demand.

Research Questions

  • What are patterns in wait times for online reservation technology lending devices?
  • What patterns do we see in volume of circulation over the course of the year, semester, week, and day?
  • Are there specific times of the semester or day when most or all of certain devices are unavailable?

Methodology

Three sources of data were analyzed. In order to examine capacity lending times, custom logs were written by the Technology Support Analyst (Dawn Pearce) before the start of the fall 2010 semester to track data on the utilization percentages of individual technology lending items in the ILS. For 4-hour lending items, the log techlend.hourly took a snapshot of all items in the ILS with a home location TECHLEND and a circulation period of 4HOUR and listed the number of items in repair, the number of items available for checkout, and the number of items checked out. The log techlend.daily did the same, but for 7-day lending items, taking a snapshot only once a day. The 7DAY log, however, was first created in October 2010, meaning that several months of data from the Fall 2010 semester are missing from the log. These logs enables staff to analyze time periods when the Libraries ran out of certain items for lending.

Many devices offered through the Technology Lending Service must be requested using an Online Waiting List. Because a number of items are in high demand, students may have to wait not only for processing time, but also behind a list of other students who want a product. For analysis on the amount of time patrons had to wait to receive technology lending items, data was exported from a MySQL database in which reservations for technology lending are made. The current wait time tracking system does not differentiate between wait times caused by different factors: for example, it is impossible to tell how much of a wait time was caused by unavailability of items versus processing time (for example, the time required for staff to put the requested books on an ebook reader). Projectors were added to the lending pool in April 2010, but online requests were disabled in September 2010 because demand far exceeded supply.

In May 2011, data was exported from the ILS on all circulations of technology lending items to patrons from the beginning of the Fall 2010 semester to the end of the Spring 2011 semester. This data was used to examine circulation volume.

Charts for technology lending wait times were created using ProtoVis, a free and open source visualization toolkit originating out of the Stanford Visualization Group for JavaScript that uses SVG image for rendering charts on the web. Charts for lending volume and at utilization percentages were made with HighCharts, a JavaScript charting library free for non-commercial use that generates interactive charts for the web.

See this link for an online version of this report including interactive charts. See the Appendix for a list of technology lending items and their lending periods.

The lending program

What technology do we lend, how many of each item do we have, and what items are lent for four hours versus one week? These are all frequent questions related to NCSU Libraries' technology lending program. The lists below show the number of items that we lent in the 2010-2011 academic year. Note that some items are represented in both the 4-hour and 7-day categories, and the number of total items available is a combination of the two.

    4-hour lending
  • Lenovo laptops (100)
  • Lenovo netbooks (50)
  • MacBooks (45)
  • MacBook Pros (10)
  • iPads (15)
  • Calculators (60)
  • Headphones (60)
  • Gaming Equipment (30+)
  • Display cables and adapters (20)
  • Power cables (20)
  • Kindle DX with periodicals (1)
  • Flip Camera (1)
  • Projector (1)
  • Presentation Remote (1)
    7-day lending
  • iPads/iPod Touches/iPods (200)
  • Kindles (all types) (60)
  • GPS devices (40)
  • Point and shoot cameras (50)
  • Olympus DSLR cameras (24)
  • Misc camera equipment (10)
  • Flip Video cameras (40)
  • Sony HD video cameras (8)
  • Olympus voice recorders (30)
  • Zoom H2 music recorders (5)
  • Projectors (15)
  • Presentation Remotes (4)
  • Graphics Tablets (12)
  • USB thumb drives (100)

Last updated: June 28, 2011