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:

2004-336 researchers
2005-346 researchers (finding aids went online April 2005 - not picked 
up by Google for a few months after...)
2006-475 researchers

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
(301)314-2709 FAX
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