Putting Our Assumptions To The Test


I’m currently reading Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup. Ries talks a great deal about experimenting and validating learning. Often we provide products or create services because we think it is what has an impact or is what our users want. But in a number of examples that Ries provides, adding new features or services does not create any change at all and a lot of what organizations do is superfluous. This leads him to ask “which of our efforts are value creating and which are wasteful?”

To answer this question he says that we need to identify and test our assumptions through a number of small experiments. He also says that we need metrics that can tell us something as opposed to vanity metrics. An example of a vanity metric in libraries would be something like gate count. It says “we have a bunch of people coming in and out of the building,” but it doesn’t go to much farther than that. Why are these people coming in? Does it have something to do with our efforts?

He also talks about “success theater,” (the work we do to make ourselves look successful). It’s good to have charts and graphs that go up and to the right, but do those actually tell us anything? Is it our efforts that our making a difference or something else? Are we accidentally getting it right? Is it a fluke? What happens if the numbers go down?

So this brings me to my question: what are the assumptions we have in libraries and how to we test them?

Assumptions abound in libraries: students need research help from librarians, we need to be on social media, students need to be taught how to use a database. These assumptions might be different from institution to institution, but each place has their own assumptions.

We also have a variety of metrics and numbers that we can pay attention to in libraries: gate count, database statistics, circulation numbers, reference statistics, number of classes taught, assessment data, student surveys, etc. Which numbers are really valuable for testing assumptions and which are just noise?

What are some of our assumptions in libraries? What assumptions do you test at your library? What assumptions would you like to test? What metrics do or could you use to validate your learning?


How To Track Your Library’s Social Media Stats

Your library keeps reference stats, right? Your library has a gate count, correct? Why do you keep these statistics? The reason is because you want to measure how much your services are getting used.  The numbers you get back can be used for things like reevaluating your effectiveness or demonstrating your awesomeness to people who make money decisions.

Social media is no different. Your success needs to be measured just like anything else, so you can either improve what you’re doing or reveal that your efforts are paying off. Social media is a little difficult to measure, but there are still things you can track, such as fans and followers or interactions.

Tracking Twitter

Twitter Counter – The best tool I’ve found to easily track your Twitter follower count is Twitter Counter. It graphs your followers each day going back three months. You can track back even further if you pay for a Pro account. This is great for seeing is specific marketing initiatives are working. If you put up fliers and your follower count shoots up around the time you do so, there might be a relationship between the two.


TweetStatsTweetStats allows you to see your information about how you’re posting. It gives you information about the frequency of your posts, what times you most often post, and even what tools you use. It’s another helpful tool to understand how you’re using Twitter.


Tracking Facebook

Facebook makes it easier on their fan pages. They give you all the stats you can handle on their “Insights” page. They show you how many comments, wall posts, and “likes” you’re getting on your content, giving you a good understanding of how people are interacting with your page. They also measure your fans. They give you a graph over time and also a demographic breakdown by gender, age, or location.


When you look at these statistics over time a picture begins to emerge. You can examine weeks when you had a lot of interactions and see what sort of posts received the most attention. This will improve your post quality and ultimately help you develop a better relationship and understanding of your audience.

What other tracking tools do you use to understand the effectiveness of your social media efforts?