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THE MEDIA CENTER: Data Gathering, Part II: Developing Your Spreadsheet to Get the Numbers You Need [Available Full Text, Free]

By Mary Alice Anderson - Posted Nov 1, 2005
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Since the publication last fall of my Media Center column "Data Gathering—Why You Need the Numbers ...  And What You Can Do with Them," I have received many questions from readers asking for more information about how to set up a spreadsheet for gathering data that depicts media program activity. As described in the September/October 2004 issue of MultiMedia & Internet@Schools (the article is available online at, the spreadsheet we've used for years has both qualitative and quantitative data, including:

* -Number of daily classes using the media center/labs

* -List or description of class activities that week

* -Total weekly students in classes (number of classes times average class size)

* --Total weekly students (numbers in classes plus a factor for average daily drop-in)

* -Media specialist instructional activities

* -Weekly totals

* -Daily averages

* --Special events (book fair, staff development, meetings, etc.)

This past spring, some of our data was very publicly shared by administrators speaking at school board meetings and in letters to the editor of the local newspapers, including one by a school board member. This showed very clearly that people do pay attention to data and that data does have an impact. In this case, the data was used to argue for improved media center facilities and resources at another school in our district.

Getting Started

So how do you begin? You will need a spreadsheet program such as Excel and knowledge of a few basic spreadsheet operations:

* -Creating and saving a new spreadsheet (Excel calls them workbooks)

* -Naming the sheet tabs at the bottom of the page

* --Entering text and numbers in columns and rows

* -Adjusting the height and width of columns and rows

* -Using Excel toolbars (drawing, standard, formatting, formula) and the formatting palette

* -Formatting text and numbers

* -Performing two basic calculations—sum and average

* -The Auto Fill command to repeat formulas and enter numbers in a series

* -Printing the portion of your spreadsheet you wish to share as hard copy and as PDF if you choose to put it on your Web site.

The 24-step getting-started directions included with this article (see Figure 1) assume a basic working knowledge of Excel. I've included what to put in each of the column headers, a few tech tips, and a comment. You can add additional columns as needed. For example, one additional column might be used to highlight media center management tasks.

When it's time to share your spreadsheet, take the time to dress it up. Refer to Figure 2 for tips about enhancing your spreadsheet and printing. To take a look at an example of a spreadsheet with data entered for 2 weeks, see Figure 3.

Get in the habit now of keeping your data current by making daily notes of what you do. Have fun!

Mary Alice Anderson is a frequent contributor to professional journals and is available as a conference and workshop presenter. In addition to working for Winona Area Public Schools in Minnesota, she is an online adjunct instructor with the Online Professional Development for Educators Program in the School of Education at University of Wisconsin-Stout []. Her personal Web site can be found at Communications to the author may be sent to

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