Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

More Statistics!

Amie Grosshans

I was introduced to the fascinating and overwhelming world of statistics in my Collections Development class last year.  I used data from the US Census and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners for an assignment that and got to see a wealth of data about all aspects of libraries.  I loved doing that work, so I was thrilled to have another statistics-based assignment for my YA class.  This time, I have a new source: the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MDOE).  The MDOE has a ton of statistics about public and charter schools in Massachusetts, including a breakdown of student enrollment by race, gender, and ethnicity; the amount of money spent per student and where that money comes from; standardized test results; and average class size.  There is also attendance and discipline information, as well as information about advanced coursework opportunities.  Each school also has an “accountability profile” which rates it in relation to other schools in the state.  This information is very useful, but also very overwhelming.  

            Luckily, the assignment has clear directions of what information is needed.  It involves a theoretical situation where librarians from three different cities have to choose between three different packages of materials for a school project.  The packages include computers loaded with electronic books and primary source information; print materials, including ESL books; and a subscription database.  Each package has a different number of computers and books.  Using the statistics from the MDOE website, as well as information from the Census, we have to choose which package is best for each school.  For example, one of the schools has a very high percentage of students who do not have internet access at home, so that school would benefit from a package with more computers that could be borrowed for use at home.   There are no right or wrong answers, but the choices have to be backed up by the statistics.  I found it tough to pick what package was best for each school, mainly because I didn’t think there was a package that would fit all the needs for each school.  But, sometimes librarians (and other professionals!) have to make the best decisions with the materials that they have.  I tried to do that, and it was an interesting task.