December 18, 2014

Gale Releases Analytics On Demand, a Demographic GIS for Libraries

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Analytics On DemandGale today launched Analytics On Demand, a new geographic information system (GIS) that combines local demographic data with information from a library’s ILS to generate real-time reports on circulation trends and patron lifestyles.

Powered by business analytics provider Alteryx, with regularly updated demographic and consumer lifestyle segmentation data from Experian Mosaic, the foundation of the new service is built on the same tools as Gale’s DemographicsNow: Business and People. That subscription service, which launched in March 2012, enables business owners and executives to generate interactive maps and charts that can help them understand potential customers, optimize marketing plans, or even choose the best site for a new location. With Experian Mosaic working under the hood and grouping locals into 71 distinct consumer segments, users of DemographicsNow can get a significantly more granular view of potential customers than other sources of demographic data—such as the U.S. Census—might provide.

Where DemographicsNow is designed for businesses, the new Analytics On Demand service is tailored to the needs of libraries. By incorporating anonymized address and circulation data from a library’s ILS, librarians can create maps, charts, and reports that illustrate where their patrons live, how different demographic groups are utilizing the library, which genres or resources are most popular among different consumer segments, and much more.

“Obviously, a library makes different types of decisions on strategic planning and operations, but they’re faced with all of these decisions, just like a business,” said Gerry Sawchuk, senior director for new products at Gale parent company Cengage Learning. “A library is, in effect, a business. Their products are their content, their patrons are their customers.”

The new service positions Gale as a competitor to other library-centric, data-driven research and marketing solution providers such as OrangeBoy, and CIVICTechnologies, notes Sawchuk. The distinction with Analytics On Demand is that subscribers will be able to generate a variety of reports on the fly.

The service enables this by overcoming a key stumbling block faced by demographic analytics tools—non-standardized data. In this case, patron addresses are one prime example. When applying for a library card, different patrons might misspell a street name, use a variety of non-standard abbreviations for “street” or “boulevard,” or forget to include their zip code. Analytics On Demand automatically standardizes this information by running addresses through the U.S. Postal Service’s address verification system and Tom Tom GPS mapping.

“What we’ve attempted to do here is simplify the whole process [of local demographics analysis] so that a library doesn’t have to clean up any of their data,” Sawchuk said. “They can simply extract files, load them into these applications, and immediately get results.”

The option to run reports—and different variants of reports—as often as needed, also enables the real-time tracking of targeted marketing or outreach efforts, new programs, or significant additions to a library’s collection, Sawchuk added.

Instant Insights

“We can do specific marketing programs, and take a pre-program look at patrons coming in and a post-program look at patrons coming in, and actually see if we’ve been effective,” said Kathryn Lynip, Manager of Reference and Adult Services for the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library (MDEPL) in Broomfield, CO. MDEPL worked with Gale during the later stages of the product’s development, allowing Gale to test the effectiveness of the data standardization components of the program in exchange for an early look at what the system can help them learn about their patrons.

Even this preliminary look offered several insights, Lynip said. For example, MDEPL librarians were surprised to find that a significant number of their most frequent visitors were from higher income brackets. And, just prior to the product’s official launch, Lynip was working on an outreach effort that would highlight databases and library programs that would appeal to residents of a north Broomfield neighborhood aged 55 and up, who fell into similar Mosaic lifestyle segments.

“I’m hoping that we’ll actually see an uptick in new patron registration from those areas as a result,” Lynip said.

The initial release of Analytics On Demand was designed for public libraries, and launches with two modules: a “patron profiles” integrated demographic, market segmentation, and geo-spatial data module to help libraries better understand their patrons, and a “collection intelligence” module that helps libraries understand how different demographics and lifestyle segmentation groups are using their collections and resources.

A “predictive insights” module will soon be added to help subscribers analyze potential future scenarios using any set of past time-series data from their ILS or other tracking systems. And other modules are under consideration as well, including “voter registration insights” which would overlay voter registration data with patron data, enabling highly targeted outreach for referenda, budget increases, and other get-out-the-vote efforts. Gale is also planning to write applications for the program that will be more appropriate for academic libraries and school libraries, such as an application that could help educators analyze the impact that summer reading programs have on student grades. Price per app/module will vary based on the population served by the library, with annual subscriptions starting at $2,000 for a single module for a small library. Discounts will also be given with the purchase of multiple modules.

The system was designed to protect the privacy of individual patrons, Sawchuk said. Addresses and circulation data are disassociated from patron names and sent to Gale over an encrypted connection. After reports, maps, or charts are generated, the original files containing that information are automatically destroyed.

“The only thing that is output, the only thing that is saved is the summarization of the data by groups, which protects the privacy of all of their individual patrons, but yet at the same time allows them to learn about them in order to meet their needs more effectively,” he said.

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Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Associate Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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