Simple Statistics for Library and Information Professionals (2nd ed.)

Don Revill (Former Head of Learning Services, Liverpool John Moores University)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 1 July 2000




Revill, D. (2000), "Simple Statistics for Library and Information Professionals (2nd ed.)", New Library World, Vol. 101 No. 4, pp. 193-196.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The contents of this volume are pretty standard after the introductory “Why bother with statistics?” It covers basic terminology, levels of measurement, conventional signs and symbols; descriptive statistics – percentages, proportions, ratios, measures of central tendency, measures of dispersion, time series, and index numbers; probability – the binomial and Poisson distributions, sampling; inferential statistics – normal distributions, hypothesis testing, analysis of variance, Yule’s Q, chi‐square, correlation and regression, etc. There is a short bibliography and an index. Some useful cautionary advice is given on using calculators and, very briefly, on available computer software.

The difference between this text “for library and information professionals” and other basic texts lies, essentially, in the examples given, although not all are taken from the library and information fields. One supposes that the use of “familiar” examples will aid understanding in that the reader does not have to make yet another transition for relevance.

Anyone who has taught statistics will have his or her own pet ways of helping students to understand the concepts and make calculations correctly (one small example that might have helped here is the use of the formula (v–1) (h–1) in order to find degrees of freedom rather than by counting cells).

“Simple statistics” does not necessarily mean “statistics made simple”. The text, as with any statistics text, requires significant effort on the part of the beginner. Motivation must first be there. Readers must work through at least some of the questions at the end of each section and check results against the answers given in order to achieve understanding.

It is something of a pity that texts such as this – surveys for librarians, management for librarians … are still thought to be necessary. It is as though the profession is incapable of making use of literatures other than its own despite being their custodians. Yet regrettable as it is, the general lack of statistical knowledge within the profession requires such titles in order to encourage the uninitiated. A degree of numeracy is essential for any professional; otherwise they will be unable to fully comprehend the research literature, never mind being able to conduct their own in‐house research except in the most superficial, and therefore misleading, way. At the most practical level an understanding of statistics leads to improved analysis and better decision making.

Given the situation, this book is a useful addition to the field. It is, perhaps, the only statistics text most people will need. It is a good starting point for anyone who wishes to use statistics properly, and as a refresher course for others, although for the non‐ expert (and that means most of us) it is still advisable to seek skilled advice.

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