Daphna Blatt is Director of Strategic Research & Analytics at The New York Public Library (NYPL). Prior to joining the Library in 2011, she provided strategic and analytical support to Fortune 500 companies as part of the consulting staff at Bain & Company, and served as in-house strategist for a portfolio company of the private equity firm Warburg Pincus. Blatt holds a B.A. in Psychology from Yale University, from which she graduated summa cum laude.
As the NYPL’s Director of Strategic Research & Analytics, I see my team’s mission as having two key prongs. The first is to develop, implement, and leverage qualitative and quantitative data to advocate for our library’s — and all libraries’ — impact on the communities we serve. The second is to foster a culture of data-informed decision-making across all departments and levels at our institution.
In pursuing this mission over the years, my team and I have skirted — and occasionally hit — some interesting data-related or data-adjacent limitations, many of which we share with other library systems of all sizes, in other cities, and across other countries. These have included the challenges of: using standardized peer benchmarks to contextualize our institutional performance, balancing our values around privacy with our appetite for insights and impact reporting, and operationalizing outcome (rather than exclusively output) measures for our programmatic offerings.
Given all of this, I am excited to be a part of the Public Library Data Alliance’s beginnings, and to contribute to a national-level, action-oriented conversation to collaboratively advance the role that data plays in library operations, communications, and service. In addition to representing the unique perspective of an institution that includes both research and circulating libraries, I welcome this opportunity for NYPL’s investments in data and analytics to provide value to the broader library community. Having served on the Measures that Matter Action Plan Implementation Group that helped lay the groundwork for the PLDA, I can already attest to the value of convening a diverse group of stakeholders to envision and prioritize the data-related investments that could pay dividends to libraries serving any size, or kind, of community.
As the PLDA embarks on its forward-thinking work of strengthening library data infrastructure, I look forward to our taking an expansive view of what “infrastructure” includes. Of course, it includes more incisive metrics, efficient reporting workflows, and data interoperability that will allow us to roll up individual library data to a meaningful national level. But it also encompasses investments in staff training, channels for soliciting meaningful feedback from patrons about their needs and experiences using our services, and messaging for communicating the extent of our usage — and that usage’s reverberating impact — to our public, partners, and funders. A library’s value to its community, and the individuals within it, is too multidimensional to be reduced to a set of pithy data points, and yet not fully articulated without them.