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CARL Data Visualization Toolkit: Home

The purpose of this resource is to provide guidance for academic libraries seeking to incorporate dashboards and other data visualization tools into their assessment practice.

CARL Dashboards and Data Visualization

Welcome to the Canadian Association of Research Libraries portal
for resources and information on creating dashboards and data visualizations.

Basic types of dashboard:

Operational Dashboard – A regularly updated answer to a question or line of inquiry that frequently monitors operational concerns in response to events or on an ad-hoc basis.
Strategic/Executive Dashboard – A high level view of a question or line of inquiry that is usually answered in a routine, specific way and usually presents Key Performance Indicators in a minimally interactive way.
Analytical Dashboard – A highly interactive view that provides a variety of investigative approaches to a specific central topic with a few corollary contextual views.

From Unilytics:

Dashboard and Data Visualization Definitions

"A dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives; consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance.

(Stephen Few)


"...a dashboard is a user interface that, somewhat resembling an automobile's dashboard, organizes and presents information in a way that is easy to read”



"A business dashboard is a screen that consolidates critical performance metrics all in one place, making it easy for users to stay constantly updated on the information most important to their business.Dashboards can be designed to suit a variety of needs, and will therefore take on a variety of forms, from business intelligence dashboards (BI dashboards) to executive dashboards/enterprise dashboards and key performance indicator dashboards (KPI dashboards).

(DashBoard Insights)


"Roughly speaking, data visualization is drawing a picture with your data instead of leaving it in a spreadsheet or table.

(Datapine Blog)


"Data visualization is the presentation of data in a pictorial or graphical format. It enables decision makers to see analytics presented visually, so they can grasp difficult concepts or identify new patterns."



"An effective dashboard is one that offers a consolidated, visual display of an organization's most critical data. By integrating data from multiple sources, a dashboard allows the user to achieve a big picture understanding of key performance indicators at a glance. It also gives them to power to easily drill down for a more thorough examination of the data."





  • A scorecard can be incorporated into a dashboard, but it isn’t a dashboard on its own
  • A dashboard is similar to an infographic; however an infographic is geared more towards communicating information to the masses, while a dashboard communicates key performance indicators (KPIs) to a specific target audience. Both can be textual, visual, or a combination.

Basic rationale for creating dashboards and data visualization

Gartner RAS Core Research Note

“The main purpose of a dashboard is to enable managers to quickly and routinely comprehend how they are performing against their KPIs, not to provide an environment for complex data analysis.”


Wikipedia - Dashboard

Some of the benefits as listed include: Visual presentation of performance measures; Ability to identify and correct negative trends; Measure efficiencies/inefficiencies; Ability to generate detailed reports showing new trends; Ability to make more informed decisions based on collected business intelligence; Align strategies and organizational goals; Save time compared to running multiple reports; Gain total visibility of all systems instantly; Quick identification of data outliers and correlations.


Stephen Few. 2009.

"Data visualization makes “stories visible and bring[s] them to life”

Few, Stephen. 2009. Now You See It: Simple Visualization Techniques for Quantitative Analysis. Oakland, CA: Analytics Press. p. 5.


Yellowfin Dashboard Best Practice Webinar

Dashboards allow for faster insight (all metrics are in one place), better decisions (you can see a summarized view of the world), strategic focus (they get everyone on the same page), and enable monitoring business success (tracks progress over time)


Paris Technologies

When data is rendered visually, we can easily spot trends and patterns that could have gone undetected in just a statistical form. It makes total sense that data visualization will give us more meaning, as 90% of information transmitted in the human brain is visual. We also process visual imagery 60,000 times faster than text, which the brain finds easier to remember.

Working Group

This guide was created by the members of the Data Visualization Project Group of the CARL Assessment Committee Continuing Education Working Group.

Alison Ambi (Memorial University) <>

Kate Cushon (University of Regina) <>

Tania Gottschalk (University of Manitoba) <>

Jenny Hirst (University of Waterloo) <>

Pam Morgan (Memorial University) <>