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Libraries are at the heart of our communities, but they are facing challenges from budgetary pressures and changes in modern lifestyles. The Leicestershire County Council (LCC) Research and Information team, Leicestershire Library Services (LLS) and the giCentre at City University London have visually explored 450,000 library lending records to develop answers around three key questions to the service:

  1. How does performance vary across the 54 libraries in Leicestershire?
  2. In which areas are the best customers living?
  3. Can the area you live in contribute to predictions of use?

The key participants were Robert Radburn at LCC and Dr. Jason Dykes of the giCentre at City. Robert participated through a User Fellowship of the ESRC UPTAP programme - a secondary data analysis initiative funded to support those aiming to Understand Population Trends and Processes. The fellowships build capacity in secondary data analysis by ‘up-skilling’ early to mid-career researchers.

The work is indicative of an exploratory approach that might be utilised across a whole range of large structured government data holdings – particularly those that are spatial.

vizLib movies

Sophisticated interactions and animated transitions were developed using the open source software sketchbook Processing and then used to query the lending records in a highly dynamic way. Some of the most interesting patterns that help answer these questions are outlined in the movies below.

There is no audio on these movies.

Spider Plots

Graphics showing the spatial relationships between libraries and customer locations

Quartile Plots

Concentric rings showing the distance travelled by the closest '25%', '50%' and '75%' of best users.

Neighbourhood to library use

Showing the different libraries 'best users' by output area.

Spatial Treemap

We used the new 'spatial treemap' visualization technique for non-occluding space-filling layouts. Symbols representing geographical units are sized according to population and arranged to reflect their locations and the hierarchical geography of units.

Presentations and papers


Radburn R, and Dykes J. (2010), "vizLib: Developing capacity for exploratory analysis in local government visualization of library usage data", ESRC UPTAP short report

Radburn R., Dykes J. and Wood J., (2010), "vizLib: Using The Seven Stages of Visualization to Explore Population Trends and Processes in Local Authority Research", "Proceeding of GIS Research UK 2010 (GISRUK 2010)"

Radburn, R., Dykes, J. and Wood, J., (2009), "vizLib: Developing Capacity for Exploratory Data Analysis in Local Government - Visualization of Library Customer Behaviour","Proceedings of GISRUK, 1-3 April, Durham, UK" .


LIRG Conference: Public library service evaluation, July 9th 2010, University of East London

Workshop organised on the 3rd March at Loughborough University - Exploring customer transactions – ‘Exposing’ community profiling? A case study of Leicestershire’s experience in data visualisation

Presentation at the BURISA/UPTAP Seminar, 9.10.09, on ‘Understanding Population Trends and Processes: Building Capacity through User-Academic Collaboration’ at City Hall, London vizLib: Visualization of Customer Library Behaviour

Presentation at the UPTAP workshop, 23rd-25th March 2009, University of Leeds, Developing capacity for exploratory analysis in local government


visualising library data - Talis Panlibus magazine, Summer 2010.

You've-got-graphics-in-my-data - Michael Cervieri July 14, 2010 ScribeMedia.org

Graphic partnership brings life to data - ESRC press release July 14, 2010.

vizLib pioneers data visualization of library users - Library & Information Update blog 29 January 2010

Leicestershire Pioneers 'Data Visualisation' For Service Improvement - issue 32 of 'E-Government Bulletin'

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