St. Paul Public Library plans to start testing new software to help find some answers. The program connects the data libraries have — like addresses — to other databases. It then creates a demographic profile of patrons. Hadley says new information will give her a better idea of who’s using the library and who isn’t.
“The reason we want to do this is so we can better get out information, communicate in different ways to different audiences depending on their interests and to affect our programming in a way that’s more responsive to people in the city,” Hadley said. The data mining application, called Analytics on Demand, will cost St. Paul about $20,000 a year. Gale, a company that specializes in library software, launched application a year ago.
Nancy Sims, a librarian at the University of Minnesota and an attorney who specializes in the legal, ethical and civil liberties issues surrounding libraries, said libraries need to take special care when they start analyzing data about their patrons.
“There is on the one hand, I believe very strongly, some wonderful value to not tracking the individuals, because it leaves people comfortable to do things like find that book about that kind of sex they don’t want to talk to anybody else about,” she said. “But on the other hand, libraries are like every service increasingly under pressure to demonstrate that they’re doing good stuff.”
See Also: Gale Analytics on Demand Web Site