If you told 15 year old me, working at the Farm Fresh grocery on Big Bethel Road, pretending to smoke so that she could get an extra 5 minute break away from her cash register, that she would one day be a librarian and use the Farm Fresh experience to write about keeping statistics–she probably would have said, “Ok.” She was a very literal child.

If you’ve not had the pleasure of working retail, one of the major factors is that no one trusts you. You have to count everything many, many times. In the spirit of counting, here are some reference statistics that you might not be keeping, and how they show return on your institution’s investment.

  • Number of handouts taken each day: Resource and research guides are reference paid forward. Someone had to design them, of course, but use of the handout is where the reference happens. Count your handouts at the beginning and end of the day, and note the difference. You will be able to show work product being used, and how much you’re spending on printing. An easy way to accomplish this? Put out the same number every day. There are always 50 $1 bills in a bundle, and quarters come in rolls of $10 for good reason. Librarians are standards people, too!
  • Comp services per day: If you forget a meal-essential sauce when delivering Chinese food as a 17 year old, and you have to return to the customer to deliver said sauce–those people are getting a free meal. Likewise, if you lose a request for materials, if a copy card gets eaten, the patron is probably going to get some special service. Note these services. Now, you can start to troubleshoot weak points in your service methods.
  • Tech directional questions: Make a little map of your library, and plot an X where each person who asks about spotty wifi coverage is working. You’re tired of answering questions about wifi, and IT is tired of your non-directed demands for a stronger signal. This plotted statistic will allow you to tell IT exactly where the weakness is, so that they can pinpoint and fix the problem. IT laughed in your face? This statistic allows you to tell the people who control the budget precisely what you need in terms of stronger wifi.
  • Databases used: This one is harder, especially at a busy reference desk, but it could help you bargain better during renewal season if you know exactly which components of which databases you are using most. Of course, vendors keep their own statistics, but what do those numbers mean to you? Keeping track of what your team is using on a day-to-day basis is stronger than anecdotal evidence, and gives you concrete, numerical bargaining power in your negotiations.

Happy counting!