Counting “Likes” and “Followers”: Social Networking Data and the Nat’l Library of Medicine

Companies and agencies are data obsessed. With the big data boom came the desire to leverage data in countless ways. Organizations began with analyzing their own data, but now the goal is to collect droves of information from outside sources, and in many cases, hiring companies to do it for them.

Libraries are doing this too. What’s odd is that many people don’t mentally include libraries in the group of agencies looking to implement analytics, when many of the courses in a library science program focus on organizing information. One of the major activities in a library is collecting information about various topics, organizing it, and in some cases, interpreting it, before providing it to the public.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) has been doing this with health and science records for as long as it has existed. Now the NLM is looking for other information; it has signed a contract with a company to collect data on NLM’s social networking presence.

The company will see how often NLM is mentioned on social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. The presence of NLM on average on those sites will be compared to its presence during a health warning, such as Swine Flu or Mad Cow Disease. Other information collected will gauge the usability of NLM’s sites and databases. This information will help the National Library of Medicine better understand how citizens use its databases and other information sources so that it can develop better programs to serve the public. The hope is that with better programs will come more usage, which is essential to the survival of every federal library.

Check out The National Library of Medecine’s Proposal here!

And you can follow them on Twitter @nlm_news

Have you ever used the NLM’s database? What information do you go to libraries for?

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