Following on from Nigel’s thoughts on personalisation and data mining, I have some of my own.
I have traditionally regarded the core purpose of an LMS to complete daily operational tasks such as accessioning a magazine, recording borrower activity, keeping track of stock, and a bit of collection profiling i.e. see what is being borrowed and what is not.
But with increasing data mining capabilities in library system there is a potential wealth of info to be mined from patron interactions with the library and each other. Sorcer has given us a glimpse of this potential, in “Books for you” and “Others have read”.
Data mining is not necessarily new to libraries, for example most if not all libraries are required to mine information for their annual reports. All anonymous of course, and for internal reasons such as justifying budgets and meeting KPIs.
However, if we take the case of commercial ventures such as Facebook, Google, Foursquare et. al. , our online activities are much more closely scrutinised, being used for targeted advertising, collecting market research data, suggesting new friends and contacts etc.
This raises an interesting question, can libraries do the same thing? For example, interrogating the LMS to find out about borrowing patterns could also have many uses, commercial and social. There are of course potential ethical and security considerations, but nonetheless gives us food for thought and so I’ve listed some specific questions below.
Data mining for commercial gain
Can a library sell its data to outside organisations for marketing/retail purposes? Have any libraries done this? Would libraries ever do this to get funding to keep the library operating or add new services?
Ethical and security considerations
Are libraries breaking confidentially agreements by providing information about certain groups of users to external parties? Can we be confident that data is adequately anonymised so that only demographic trends are recorded rather than individual movements?
Who would manage the process
Internal staff, managed services from vendor, or third parties who may not even be library related?
I should add that I’m not necessarily for or against any of these ideas, simply curious.