The problem with borrower statistics

I saw a post the other day talking about measuring impact of reading based on borrower statistics.
To say I was unimpressed was an understatement. Unimpressed more about the attitude of some of the profession to not be able to see beyond the basics and remain fixated on the things that don’t really matter.
To not even be able to see beyond their naivety and false understanding of impact and ultimately to spend time and effort on an area that means nothing.

The question was based around how you can prove impact of reading in a school and changes made on reading based on borrower statistics.

The problem with statistics and borrowing data is that it actually proves nothing in a school library and can be ‘bodged’ in so many ways that to rely on it as evidence to show SLT is like basing a students GCSE grade on their attendance.
Just because a book is being borrowed does it in anyway prove that it is being read. And on the flip side just because a user hasn’t borrowed a book does it mean that they are not a reader.

To look at year on year statistics then has no real bearing on giving you any type of information, especially in a school, different maybe in a public library but especially in a school.
One year, for instance, you may have no specific library lessons but students come in when they wish to borrow books. Every book that goes out is pretty much read because those using the service are borrowing because they want to read. In this year lets say borrowing figures are at 1,000 over the course of the year.
The next year the library introduces library lessons where students come to the library on a regular basis and as part of this are encouraged to take books. In this year borrowing increases to 7,000 loans a year. ‘Wow’ you say. You’ve increased loans over the year and now have 6,000 more books read in the year. Your impact has been massive and more reading is happening. Right? Wrong!
The only proof you have is that more books are bring borrowed. This though has no relation whatsoever on how much reading is actually going on.
What you’ve probably got is the same amount of reading going on as the year before but a lot of books going out and coming back that aren’t being read.
To use this and believe that in some way it provides evidence of impact is not only naive but also foolhardy.
Impact of reading is a lot more intricate than this. Borrower statistics are only a surface picture, what you really need to be doing is looking at your students as individuals, understanding their starting points, their barriers that are stopping them from accessing reading and then break down those barriers and allow them every access to be able to read.
Then to show that impact you need to track the student, highlight the work you’ve done with them and then show the progress they have made. That is impact and that is the reason you should take little notice of borrower statistics.

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