Most libraries have some sort of mechanism to track their reference statistics and for many of us, it may even be the old pen and paper. Gimlet (http://gimlet.us/) is an excellent tool not only to track questions easier, but also to help libraries create a knowledge base of questions and answers. Additionally, Gimlet allows users to pull a variety of useful reports. Best of all, it’s extremely affordable at $10 a month.
Instead of simply counting questions, Gimlet can easily be set up to track a variety of data points including question duration and type, patron type, format, and location of question. While these main categories are static, the selections within the categories can be edited. The back end portal set up extremely easily and anyone with basic Internet skills can do it. Once the category selections are chosen, it is easy to add users to the portal by simply inviting them via the website.
Gimlet is web based so it can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. After users have been invited to join the site, they will set up a password and then can start recording questions, answers, and various aspects of the interaction. Tags can also be used to better identify common topics of questions.
As mentioned, Gimlet does more than just track questions for future reports; it also sets up a knowledge base of questions and answers and can be searched via keyword or tag and can include date limits.
Because I only had a free trial when trying out Gimlet, I could not see the variety of reporting options. However, a recent Charleston Advisor article (Breitbach 2011), mentions several of the reporting tools. In addition to basic line graphs showing the various data points, Breitbach says, “…details statistics allow users to run pivot tables (cross tabulations)…For example, users wanting to compare “question type” with “format” (in-person, phone, IM, etc.) or any other variable entered into the system…in a matter of seconds.”
Overall, I think any library that does not currently have an automated reference statistics system should seriously consider this product. For those of us that already use an in house system or use another product such as Libstats, we may want to do some comparisons. With the very low cost, the ease of customization, and the advanced reporting, Gimlet might win over many other systems currently in place.
Breitbach, W. (2011, April). Gimlet. The Charleston Advisor, 12 (4), 36-38.