Stacey Aldrich holds a Master’s of Library Science degree and served as the State Librarian of California and the Deputy Secretary for the Office of Commonwealth Libraries of Pennsylvania. She was selected by Library Journal as one of the top 55 professionals “shaping the future of libraries” and was awarded the LINK AMERICAS Foundation Knowledge Award for vision and leadership in digital literacy. She is the current President of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) and having been highly involved with COSLA’s interest in and efforts around data collection and use, will serve on the Public Library Data Alliance.
I feel lucky to have started my professional career at the dawn of the internet, and I’ve always been a bit of a techie. When I worked in Maryland, it became the first state to have internet at all its state libraries, and I was part of the group that taught people how to use it. It doesn’t seem like that long ago, from a human perspective, but now we’re at a point where we can identify the impacts these tools are having on people and services.
COSLA is tucked into everything library and has both a statewide and a national perspective. We represent multiple kinds of libraries and we all work together, which gives us a really good “big picture.” As state librarians, we know how data is collected and used, what the challenges are, and how to use that data to explain how our libraries are making a difference.
We need to measure and tell our story without it being so burdensome. We ask libraries to take surveys that use the same form other organizations do, causing a doubling-up of data which has become onerous. By bringing people together, we can work more effectively in building the data pictures for the future.
The magic of putting this group together is that a lot of the lead organizations have been trying to do the same thing, and now we can sit at the table, together, to think about collecting and using data in new ways. As a group, our goals are to keep supporting people in using data, question data to help us think better, and make it easier and more strategic to use.
Libraries are great collectors and connectors to our human stories but sometimes we’re not as good at telling our stories. Data helps us articulate them. Having this wonderful group talking and thinking about what data means will improve our ability to elucidate our, sometimes hidden, roles.