On Fake Library Statistics

As a new data librarian, I enjoy it whenever I see the Fake Library Stats twitter and facebook feed. Maybe that’s because statistics is a language of power. When librarians adopt this “statistical gaze,” it gives us a way of looking at things that makes some ideas evident, transparent, and powerful–even as other perceptions are nudged out of view.

Statistics on Library Programs

Because statistics have this ability to shape what we see, it’s fun to see them twisted around to provide cultural commentary and insider jokes on librarianship. For instance:

Having worked as a children’s librarian, it “feels right” — never mind that the numbers are completely made up.

Statistics on Library Surveys and Assessment

My boss is a bit too clever for this Garrison Keillor schtick (“where all the librarians are above average!”), so I don’t think I can get away with Good to Awesome class evals.  

But let’s look for a moment at library assessment–at how we use numbers to ‘prove‘ our educational value. Someday, I’ll do an ethnography of library surveys and statistics, to understand how we use questions, numbers, and charts to track our progress, to meet others’ desires, to defend against questions…

Like this. If you surveyed a team of 7, you’d get 7 different ideas. On every question. All the time!

Statistics on Change

Some librarians are about every future possibility (‘environmental scan’, anyone?), while others guard our past traditions. 

Statistics on LibGuides (online finding aids)

Another quirk of 21st century academic libraries. LibGuides are a proprietary website format for linking to information… except they’re more cluttered, boxy, customizable, and confusing than other listicles. (I mean, can you imagine if Buzzfeed produced resource guides?)

Yet LibGuides are extremely popular with librarians–who, after all, often entered the profession because they love to share information.

One of the most generous gifts a librarian can give you is a custom LibGuide, crafted just for you. It’s like a ritual exchange of pigs between the elites in highland New Guinea:

Statistics on Snow Days

And finally, we’ve even got fake library statistics on snow days… how did you know?

I would be more amused if it weren’t supposed to snow here all through the beginning of April… welcome to spring?

Chance of snow predicted in April 2015

If it’s going to snow on Easter, I hope it’s cotton-candy pink and Peeps Blue.

 

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