Librarian helping a student

New Reporting API features help leading research library demonstrate value

26 February 2024 • Candela Valle Silva, senior product marketing manager

For years, the J. Murrey Atkins Library at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) has used the OpenAthens Reporting API to unlock library usage statistics and inform planning decisions. In a research library of this size and importance, it’s an essential tool, and they jumped at the chance to help us test some recent enhancements. The proof-of-concept has been helping them gather evidence of how engagement with library resources boosts student success.


The library is running a long-term study on the correlation between engagement with its resources and undergraduate student outcomes. To this end, it has been measuring multiple points of engagement consistently for more than six years. But, in a library with about 1.4 million e-books, 212,000 journals and more than 450 databases, that’s a lot of data to process.


Until last year, as part of this study, they had scripts on their server pulling monthly statistics from the OpenAthens Reporting API as CSV files. Once each term, the assessment team within the library set aside several days to process the individual files for each OpenAthens resource.


Enter the proof-of-concept enhancements to the Reporting API. The familiar, aggregated data is still provided, but the tool can now give access to raw authentication and resource usage data. That means the library has more granular detail about specific times, locations, identifiers, activities and other reportable attributes. Personally identifiable information (PII) remains completely secure.

Even better, the enhancements make it possible to automate report downloads and combine all this data with other institutional information. It integrates seamlessly with business intelligence tools such as Microsoft’s Power BI and Tableau, the tool used by the J. Murrey Atkins Library.

Happily, the library found it quite simple to get started with receiving the raw data. Curtis Kularski is the IT manager for academic affairs. He told us:

“We wrote a PHP script and established a cron scheduling command on our server to fetch and process the data on a daily basis. The script was easy to write and based on our previous code for OpenAthens data.

“The script opens a curl connection, places the request to the API, then loops every 30 seconds until the file is ready. Once the file is ready it is retrieved and inserted into a database table. The database view we built for the library staff makes it easy to match up classifications for various user groups based on their affiliations, etc.”

The library started pulling in data within two days of being given access to the reporting API. It generates about 90,000 records each month, and the system runs the script daily in the early hours, taking just seconds to pull the latest data in.

“What we used to spend days doing, is now possible in just moments. We just click ‘refresh’ and the up-to-date information is there in the dashboard”

Becky Croxton, head of strategic analytics and special projects, J. Murrey Atkins Library


As we’ve seen, the new Reporting API saves staff huge amounts of time and provides cleaned, ready to use data in near-real time.

Collections staff in the library use the aggregated data to understand how different resources are being used and by which types of user groups.

The assessment team headed by Becky Croxton is focused squarely on the raw data, and it is giving evidence of something very powerful. She explains:

“It is demonstrating a statistically significant positive correlation between students’ interactions with our authenticated resources, such as with OpenAthens, and their success at graduation"

Becky Croxton, head of strategic analytics and special projects, J. Murrey Atkins Library

“It is helping us market the importance of this engagement at faculty meetings, within the library, and in information literacy instruction and research sessions.”

hands on laptop keyboard