Week 7: Data Visualization

Bar graphs and pie charts are a time-proven way to turn the data in your spreadsheet into a visual representation of information.  Data Visualization takes this to a whole new dynamic level with web-based sites to create myriad forms of data representation.  Data visualization is not just about making shiny, pretty pictures:  data visualization tools allows organizations to take abstract and complex data and make it more concrete and understandable.  At its best, data visualization both engages the viewer and improves understanding of the information.

This module will explore:




We will consider both how academic libraries can use data visualization to present their own institutional data, and how librarians can help their patrons explore these tools.

This video from the UCB Learning Commons provides an introduction to data visualization:


ManyEyes is a free, online web tool created by the I.B.M. corporation.  Users may view the numerous existing data visualizations on the site, users may use the existing data, or users may create their own data visualization by uploading data.  The site is free to use, but users must share their data visualization creation (a for-fee option exists for private creations).  However, the main objective is the sharing of data and the visualizations. Libraries can view the data graphs created by other libraries by either doing a keyword search in the search box, or by searching tags.  Tagging of creations allows for sharing with other similar organizations.

Here for example, is a graph created by Rutgers University to show their collections.

Here is a video with an overview of the ManyEyes:


Another prominent and useful data visualization site is visual.ly  Their slogan is “telling stories with data,” which demonstrates the purpose: to create understanding and engagement of information.  Visual.ly helps users create and share infographics.  What is an Infographic?  Infographics merge data and graphic images into a storyboard of text, pictures and statistics.  The goal is to make complex data understandable and interesting. Here’s an infographic on infographics: from InfographicLabs.

Here’s a brief video on what visual.ly can do:

Visual.ly is also free to use, though users must create an account.  Once users create an infographic, it is published on visual.ly’s site which allows for promotion, sharing and possible collaboration.  Visual.ly also works to partner designers with people who need an infographic, and in this way it works as a clearinghouse of sorts.

Visual.ly also allows users to share, promote and tag their creation. Tagging allows for efficient searching.

A subset of Data Visualization are Interactive Data Visualizations: These allow the users to interact with the data by zooming, panning, or mousing over.  In this way, a viewer can get into the data in a personalized way.

How Can Academic Libraries Use Data Visualization Tools?

Like any organization or business, libraries can use data visualization tools to inform their stakeholders:  be it patrons, library administration, university administration, or the broader community.  For example, this Stack Graph was created with ManyEyes with data from the WUSTL Library’s facts page The graph looks at numbers of reference queries, presentation attendance and database searches have changed over a 5 year period (2006-2011). We can see that reference questions and items check out have decreased whereas journal subscriptions and database searches have increased.   This is one simple example of how libraries can use these tools to represent and share data.

Caution! Things to Remember:

Any data that you upload will be visible to anyone on the internet and your graph is housed in the public domain, so other institutions can display your graph.  Information professionals are usually open to sharing their data and creations, so this is a good fit, but make sure this is the case for every creation.

Remember, too, if you are using someone else’s data chart that the validity of that data was not reviewed or approved by any entity  (this is not a peer-review situation!).  It’s important to verify the source of the data and to trust the source that uploaded the data.


Now you will explore these 3 tools:

Explore ManyEyes:

1. Visit ManyEyes
2. Create an Account
3. Create a visualization
4. Upload Data   (You can use a simple data set to start; an excel spreadsheet can easily be copied and pasted into their upload box).
5. Once your data is uploaded, go ahead and create a visualization.  There are many different visualization types and the site organized them based on what you would like to do with your data.


6.  On your blog, or in a comment on this page,  post a link to the graphic you created and write about your experience with ManyEyes.  Consider: how might you use this in your work?  How might you share this with patrons?

Explore Visual.ly

Now we will exlpore visual.ly and the potential to create and use infographics. Infographics are more time-consuming to make than data uploads, so this will be more exploratory  Though if you are motivated to make one, please go ahead!
1. Visit visual.ly
2. Select Explore.  Play around and look at what is on display.  The default is set for most recent, but you can also explore by “liked, trending, commented on, or viewed.”  Notice:  which infographics did you select?  What was it about these that attracted your attention?  Was it the topic?  Was it the visuals?  Be mindful about what caught your eye and mind.
3. Do a search that interests you (the search box is in the top left of the page).  You might search for “library” or “libraries”  or search on an academic discipline.
4.  When you find an infographic that interests you,  you can add a comment (you will need an account for this or you can sign-in through Facebook or Twitter)


5.  On your blog, or in a comment on this page, discuss what you explored on visual.ly.  Write about what you noticed when you first explored the site (step #2 above).  Then blog about what search you did and what you discovered.  Finally, blog about how you might use an infographic in the future.  What information would you want to communicate?  Who would you be creating it for (students, teaching faculty, the public?)

Just For Fun:

For our final exploration, you will create a word cloud about your blog.  The word cloud below was made on Tagxedo.com,  and it was created from this Learninghub 2.0 site.  The larger words occur more frequently than the smaller ones.
Now it’s your turn to make a word cloud from your own learninghub blog.


1.  Visit tagxedo.com
2. copy the url from  your blog and paste in the url box (box #1)
3. Choose your shape  (choose a heart if you are feeling the love), and hit Submit
4. You can then play with the word cloud, if you wish, changing shapes and colors.
5.  Share by saving the image on your computer and then uploading onto your blog (select “Add Media” in the post window)
6. Optional: You can also share your word cloud on Facebook or Twitter

For future reading:





This Learning 2.0 module was originally designed and implemented by students in Dr. Michael Stephens‘ Transformative Literacies class in the Fall of 2012.  This class is part of San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science curriculum. It was authored by Cindy Moran for librarians at Washington University in St. Louis.  It is available for use for other libraries or institutions.  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

2 Responses to “Week 7: Data Visualization”


  1. Welcome to the Learning Hub 2.0 | Learning Hub 2.0 - February 26, 2013

    […] Week 8: Data Visualization […]

  2. Week 7 and Data Visualization | Learning Hub 2.0 - April 17, 2013

    […] Apr We’re now in week 7 of our 8 week journey! This week we’ll be looking at some Data Visualization tools that will help both librarians and patrons understand, interpret, and share their data more […]

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