Keeping Public Library Stats with Google Docs (part 1)

Here’s the vision of what we’re about to do: we’re creating an online form accessible by any and all front-line staff you designate (a taskbar or desktop shortcut is probably the easiest way to do this) which they will use to record whatever basic service stats you want. This is the replacement for tally sheets you’ve been looking for. The form you create can be used on any internet-connected workstation or mobile device. As the administrator, you will be able to see live data coming in, and generate charts and reports automatically (or as the whimsy strikes you). Sound good? Okay, let’s dig in…

To start, you’ll need to go to Google Drive and either log in or create a new account. If you haven’t already created a generic Google account for your library, I’d encourage you to do so instead of tethering library stats to your personal account. Accounts are free and easy to create, simply click the Sign Up button. Once you’ve logged in, you’ll see the following:

Google Drive's home screen

Next, we want to create a new form, so we need to click the Create button, then click Form, summoning the Title/Theme window. I’m going to title my form Library Stats and select the Notepaper theme, because I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for the days of making hash marks on scraps of paper. Once you’ve made your choices, click the OK button.

Title your form and select a theme for it

You should now see the design page where you key in your questions and get your form laid out properly. The first thing to do is click on Choose response destination towards the top of the form. You’ll now see this window:

Choose response destination window

Ensure that the radio button next to New spreadsheet is selected, then click the Create button. This will create a new Google Spreadsheet bearing your form’s title followed by “(Responses).” This spreadsheet will be automatically populated with all the data you collect with your form. We’ll look at this more in the next post in the series, for now simply accept that this is awesome.

Our next step is to write our form’s questions. Nothing is better than this! Here’s how it works: the Question Title text box is where you ask your question. For our examples, all of our questions will be of the Multiple choice Question Type. Since we’ll just be gathering raw numerical data (tally sheet equivalents) we’re going to have three options for each question: 1, 3, and 5. This will allow data entry of more than one hash mark at a time. We’re going to write out just two questions corresponding to metrics needed on the Public Library Annual Report. Note that if you’re not automated, this is also a way that you can record accurate circulation data and make reporting easy (create one question for children’s circulation and one for adult circulation, as above).

Multiple choice question for recording the number of library visitors.

For the first question, I’m entering Library Visitors: as the Question Title and adding 1, 3, and 5 as the response options. To add another question, click on Add item. For the second question, I’m entering Reference Requests: as the Question Title, again with 1, 3, and 5 as the response options.

Question to record the number of reference requests fielded

That’s pretty much it for the questions I want to include on this bare bones sample form. Now that you’ve got the hang of it, feel free to make your own form more encompassing, though! I’d also encourage you to think about other things you track (or want to) and create separate forms for them–things like detailed ILL or Reference stats… the mind boggles at the possibilities!


First, we have to finish this form, though. We still want to do two things: type in a custom Confirmation message and ensure that Show link to submit another response is checked. This last one is absolutely vital, as it will allow you and your staff to quickly and easily return to the form to record more library activity. If you scroll to the bottom of your form design page, you’ll see the Confirmation Page options. (For this form we aren’t including links in the confirmation message, but be aware that you can).

Image of our finished form

As it turns out, keeping statistics on Notepaper looks rather ugly. I’m no longer feeling nostalgic for it. Fortunately, it’s easy to change my Theme to something more fetching!

The next post in this series will cover analyzing the data, making charts, and generating monthly and annual reports. In the meantime, you can get the link to the live form by clicking on Send form.

The send form window provides the link to the live form and sharing options for social media and e-mail.

If you want to place a shortcut to the form on a user’s desktop or in their taskbar, this is the url you’ll use as location of the item you’re making a shortcut to. Easy peasy!


One response to “Keeping Public Library Stats with Google Docs (part 1)

  1. Pingback: Keeping Public Library Stats with Google Docs (part 2) | Field Notes

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