The Magic Microphone and the Horrible Headphones

A while back, I had a daft idea to try and use all of the library circulation and graduate attainment data to pinpoint which books were the ones most likely to be borrowed by high achieving students, as I thought it might be fun to highlight those on the OPAC — after all, if you had the choice of two books on a topic, why not go for the one that the brightest students had borrowed the most?

Anyway, I came up with a formula to calculate a percentage score for each item, based on the attainment of the students who borrowed it and the overall distribution of all graduates, where 100% meant that only students who achieve a first class honours degree borrowed the item. I then discarded items borrowed by less than 100 students and held my breath to see which scholarly tome achieve the highest score. What I hadn’t expected to discover was that we appear to have some magic microphones, capable of bestowing high marks to all who borrow them…


Quite why these Shure SM58 microphones seem to mostly be borrowed by students who gain the best honours degrees, I can’t say!

On the other hand, the item with the lowest score turned out to be a set of headphones, borrowed mostly by students who achieved a 2:2 or a third…


The more superstitious amongst you will be glad to hear that the headphones have since been weeded … and, for all I know, buried in an unmarked grave at midnight :-D

For those of you who are interested in such things, here are the books that scored highest:

  1. Neuroanatomy : an illustrated colour text (80.08%)
  2. Audio-vision : sound on screen (78.73%)
  3. The foundations of social research (78.40%)
  4. The computer music tutorial (78.38%)
  5. Critical discourse analysis : the critical study of language (78.24%)
  6. Understanding the self (78.09%)
  7. Doing qualitative research : a practical handbook (78.01%)
  8. Personality : theory and research (77.99%)
  9. Cognitive psychology and its implications (77.64%)
  10. A way of being (77.32%)

Curiously, almost all of the lowest scoring books are business or law titles.