I keep meaning to do some sort of formal evaluation, but never quite get
there. I have reference data recorded, but have to actually put it
together...Informally, I can say that having our finding aids online has
resulted in much more frequent reference questions. I do know that the
number of researchers in my particular unit have been like this:
2005-346 researchers (finding aids went online April 2005 - not picked
up by Google for a few months after...)
What percentage of those increase in researchers came to us via our
finding aids I do not know.
A lot of the "unsatisfactory" hits we get now on our finding aids are
genealogical queries. "My family is the Hamilton family and I see you
have their papers..." That said, not all the hits are false. We've
joined quite a number of family members with their papers and have often
received additional materials to our collections as a result.
Then we have the random hits - people who ask for something based on a
folder heading they have randomly Googled. These are the types of
connections we either never would have made with print finding aids, or
might have easily overlooked when dealing with a long-distance research
request. An example would be someone researching an area of Montgomery
County, Maryland, called "Tobytown." We have several folders on this in
one of our collections, but I didn't know, and wouldn't have brought the
researcher to it as quickly as his search engine did.
I get a lot more specific, direct queries like this now. "I would like
access to Series III, Box 1, Folder 2 of such and such collection..."
I think having our finding aids online in EAD helps us answer questions
more quickly. Although I suspect our researchers don't use our advanced
search page that lets us search only the scope or only the box
inventory, we do, and it's certainly helped me pinpoint things. That
said, I don't think the researchers necessarily need less assistance. I
can spend a lot of time via email, sometimes up to ten email exchanges,
helping the researcher figure out what they want. Because even with the
finding aid, a finding aid can still only get you so far...
One thing EAD has most certainly done for us that has been burdensome is
that it has increased the number of photocopy requests! It's only
burdensome in that we have a hard time keeping up sometimes. That said,
this kind of service seems to make our researchers really happy, and
since I am in full support of as much access as possible, that makes me
Hope this helps a little.
Michele Combs wrote:
> Has anyone done any formal or informal evaluation of the effect of
> EAD on the public service staff? For example, does posting finding
> aids in EAD result in more reference questions for those collections?
> Better questions? Different kind of questions? Does it speed up
> public service staff's ability to answer reference questions? Do
> researchers need less assistance in figuring out which boxes they
> need, thus freeing up public service staff to offer assistance of a
> more sophisticated sort? Any information would be welcome, and of
> course if anyone knows of any studies on this topic please share :)
> Thanks *
> Michele C.
> -=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=- Michele R. Combs
> [log in to unmask] Manuscripts Processor Special Collections Research
> Center Syracuse University Library 222 Waverly Avenue Syracuse, NY
> 13244 (315) 443-2697 -=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=-
Jennie A. Levine
Curator for Historical Manuscripts
Archives and Manuscripts Department
2208 C Hornbake Library
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742
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