A few Primo numbers…

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2016 04 05 12 02 38

A few observations based on 12 months of data from our Primo discovery system (Jan 2015 ~ Dec 2015):


  •  333,091 unique sessions
  •  Roughly 2% originated outside the U.S.
  • Users signed in 5382 times (roughly 1.5% of sessions)

Great to see there were 333K sessions during the year but the fact that fewer than 2% of our users ever sign in is particularly worrisome for a library that serves a geographically-dispersed community. A number of our content providers require that their material be excluded from discovery and delivery if you can’t show that you have a Mason affiliation. Working from a device on the campus network meets that test for most of these vendors but a signon with our Primo satisfies them all.

So, whether you’re studying in a local coffeeshop before your evening class, or you are a Mason Online student hundreds of miles from campus, to search Primo for content from ARTstor, MLA International Bibliography,  Web of Science and several other resources  you’ll have to sign in.


Worth mentioning a few other benefits that signing-on delivers:

– tweak the relevance of Primo’s retrieval–ranking materials in your area of interest more highly

– store items on your personal e-shelf between Primo sessions

– increase the number of results per page (up to 50)

– access your circulation record

– set up recurring queries

– build RSS feeds of result sets

…and more


  • 1.1 million searches were performed
  • 999,731 of those were basic searches (90.3%)
  • 106,314 were advanced searches

Laptop borrowing…

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A few months ago we placed a 12 unit laptop self-checkout kiosk in one of our libraries.  It is certainly being used though not as much as I had originally expected.  Possible reasons:

  • it’s a new service so it takes time to be discovered and incorporated into a student’s routine.
  • maybe we haven’t yet found the sweet spot on circulation parameters so demand is affected (we offer 3 hour loans and a $5 per hour overdue fine (max $120))
  • perhaps most students bring a device to the library when they know they’re going to do computer-assisted research
  • quite possibly it’s something else altogether

Ignoring checkouts by library staff, we had 857 circulations of a laptop over the past 53 days (since 02/01/2016).  Averaging the activity across that time period comes to 16 laptop loans each day.  If we also toss out loans of less then 10 minutes, the number drops to 842 circulations or roughly 15 per day.

Given the hours the library’s open and the inherent downtime required for laptop recharging, we can guesstimate the average availability for each of the twelve laptops at something like four (4) borrow/return cycles per day.  It follows then that a 12 unit kiosk could support perhaps 2500 charges during a 53 day period.    Using those parameters, we’re utilizing roughly 33% of the system today.   That seems OK for a newly minted service and I’ll be interested to see how the numbers track up or down in coming months.

Later (and mostly because I’m looking for things to graph as I study Tableau),  I decided to dig a bit deeper.

In the visualization below, each line is a particular borrower (identifying information blurred out).  The blue line grows with each circulation by that same borrower.  To sense the scale, that user on top line checked out a laptop 36 times during the 53 day period.


Pareto would be pleased.  As the graphic demonstrates, a very few users are making heavy use of the system, others not nearly as much.    During this 53 day period, a bit less than a third of our usage (242 circulations) was racked up by just 14 users (5.01% of the total borrower population).

Finally, I decided to join the kiosk statistics with some information in our Voyager system.  The result is a visualization that highlights the academic status of our borrowers.  Each green bubble is an undergraduate borrower, the size of the bubble scaled to the number of times that person borrowed a laptop during the test period.  The orange bubbles are graduate students.   Thus far, the data suggests that borrowing a laptop from a kiosk is mostly something undergraduates do.




And what major made heaviest use?  Biology majors accounted for 17% of all laptop circulations.  2nd place? Undecided/Undeclared at 11%.

What’s In Circulation Today?

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Starting a teach-myself-Tableau session today so I thought I’d extract some data from our ILS to keep things interesting and relevant.   Here’s a graphic showing what physical items (not e-books) are in circulation to Mason students, faculty and stafff on March 21, 2016, sorted by LC classification stem.

So, for example, we have 1,207 items with a QA classification (Mathematics, Computer Science) in circulation at the moment and 489 from the DS classification (History of Asia).

Circ snapshot

Yes, I too noticed it has been two years since my last post…

Primo usage data tidbits…

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1.4 million

That’s the number of searches conducted on our Primo system between March 17, 2013 and March 17, 2014.

Roughly three weeks ago, I added Google Analytics code to our site and already it’s producing some interesting information (even if one of those weeks was Spring Break).  For example, seems we have a bit more global reach than I expected:


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Originating country for traffic we received over the past 20 days (13,848 visits, 7,400 different visitors).  Worth noting, of course, is that  99.5% of this traffic originated in the United States.

What browser were those 13,848 sessions using?

  • Chrome 41%
  • Firefox 25%
  • Safari  17%
  • IE 15%
  • all others less than 1%

Across all computer users, Macs have about a 13% market share.  That’s not what I see when I walk around the library so this isn’t too surprising:

  • Windows  65%
  • Mac 30%
  • iOS 3%
  • Android 1%


Borrowing by LC classification FY 2012-13

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Working with historic circulation data the other day I discovered that affiliates of the Washington Research Library Consortium borrowed some 20,653 monograph titles from Mason’s libraries during FY 2012-13.  Thinking about Mason’s collections and those of fellow WRLC members, I assumed that the strength of our STEM collections would surely push those sorts of titles to the top of any “what gets borrowed sorted by LC classification” list…

Did that happen?

Not exactly.   Here’s an excerpt of the list that aggregates the number of titles borrowed by each book’s LC classification number.

To explain,  the first entry shows we circulated 1,067 titles with the  LC classification stem of PN (e.g.,  PN 4748.G7 C48 1997).

LC classifications with a circulation of at least 100 titles:


The top ten subject classifications account for 8,311 titles or just a fraction over 35% of the all circulation to WRLC members.    The first STEM subject appears in position # 7 (the QA’s) and not again until #24 on the list  (Medicine – Internal Medicine).   Totaling the titles for all STEM classifications shown in this list covers 1980 titles  (or about 8% of all titles circulated).   I can think of a couple of alternative explanations for this phenomenon:

  • STEM research, for the most part, doesn’t seem to involve books, or
  • WRLC member libraries have very strong STEM collections and don’t need to borrow books from Mason

A colleague pointed out yet another possibility:  my 100 circulation threshold may be suppressing the count for STEM titles–given that those areas tend to have more finely-grained LC classifications.

And finally, my friend Dorothea Salo (@LibSkrat) pointed out that “need it now” might be the reason STEM borrowers don’t request titles from other libraries:


More research needed to nail down that last one down.

[update 3/28/2014]  Today my colleague Theresa Calcagno pointed out another factor that I haven’t thought about–it might be that e-books in STEM subjects are suppressing the number of circulations for those subject areas. 

I reworked my SQL and ran a variation of the query to get numbers on titles borrowed by Mason-affiliated borrowers during the same period: broken out as before by each title’s LC classification.   This dataset included 66,733 distinct titles (the WRLC dataset had 20,653 titles).    As an aside, some 6,357 titles were common to both datasets.

Here’s the result for any class with 450+ circulations:

newmasonQA (computer books for the most part) jumped up to #2 on this chart but otherwise, the STEM titles just don’t seem to circulate like those in the Social Sciences and Humanities (next best showing for a STEM discipline was TK at #19).  I’m ready to say I have an answer for what I’ll call the  “Salo postulate”


I’m now wondering what, if anything, the similarities and differences in these two lists can tell me about collection strengths and weaknesses at Mason and WRLC libraries.

1 million+

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Last week we logged the 1,036,791th search on our Primo system. I think I’m most impressed by the nearly vertical line between the start of this semester (August 24) and early October.

“But aren’t you supposed to minimize redundancy in a database…”

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I’m building an SQL database to help with assessment of library services.   Today’s autodidactic activity involved counting the number of students by status (undergrad, grad or law) based on the declared home address in the registrar’s database.

Finally nailed the SQL syntax but as I looked more closely at the results, excitement waned…


I suppose there are other ways to mangle Washington, DC during data entry.  Maybe if I were to just count DC in the “state” field–surely that would be a reasonable proxy for living in the District, right?


Ordinarily, yes, but that student from Bangalore, India, DC still leaves us with an off-by-one error.



EZproxy Logs and Assessment

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Seems librarians are more interested in assessment today than was the case just a few years ago.  There are many reasons for the quickening of interest but I suspect most cluster around one or the other of these themes:

  • – a sense that libraries need to justify their existence, relevance, etc.
  • – everybody’s talking about data so you need to have some to be seen as serious

In this sort of environment, the prudent course is to prepare for a dramatic rise in “Can we get some numbers on this?” questions. If you haven’t heard them yet they’re surely coming.

One way to get ready is to build in ways to measure new services as you develop them. Another is to look at data you already have and see if it can be enhanced to deliver a more compelling usage metric.

For my library, one option worth investigating–and the only place where I know I can capture every bit (and byte) of what’s happening with e-resources for off-campus users–is our EZproxy server. Is there a new way to look at the activity logs on that system? Let’s see…

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690,000 searches

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2013 09 03 10 24 36


This graph charts the 690,000 searches conducted on our Primo system since January 1, 2013.   I am happy to see that vertical jump during the final week tracked by the graph–the first week of this term.


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We placed an search widget on our library’s home page once Primo went “live”–pretty standard fare for libraries that implement a discovery product.   Our search widget looks like this:

2013 07 17 22 14 14

You’ll notice we’ve put a lot of explanatory text (which, of course, no one reads) and a number of options.  That little “locally-held collections” box was added so a user could limit search results to just our Voyager catalog and our DSpace and LUNA systems–reducing the noise that enters a result set when you include in the Primo Central Index content.

Thanks to some logging this widget performs, we know that since January 8, 2013, it has been used to launch 104,186 searches.  For 4,180 of them, the “Limit to locally-held collections” box was also checked.

Which means our usage stats show that our little “limit” checkbox gets ignored 96% of the time.   Should be easy to make the case that we should just remove it, but still…

  • it is used in 4% of searches
  • it likely performs a useful function for the 4% that select it
  • it imposes no real penalty if you choose to ignore it

I understand why some lean toward a search box that offers no options and very little explanation–just enter something and see what you get.   I also appreciate the fact that you can offer a user so many choices and options that all you’ve really done is increase the odds that they’ll choose the wrong thing.

What I haven’t quite figured out is when is it right to toss a useful feature that you know only a small percentage of people use.