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Standardized Survey Tools for Assessment in Archives and Special Collections

Yakel, E., & Tibbo, H. (2010). Standardized survey tools for assessment in archives and special collections. Performance Measurement and Metrics, 11(2), 211-222. Retrieved March 11, 2013, from the Emerald database.

Abstract: User-based evaluation in archives and special collections is in its fancy, and this paper aims to discuss the conceptualization, development, and testing of Archival Metrics Toolkits. The development and adoption of standardized metrics to support the management of both analog and digital collections is a critical need in archives and manuscript collections. The Archival Metrics Toolkits were created, and comprised five user-based evaluation instruments for archives and special collections in colleges and universities such as researcher, archival web sites, online finding aids, student researchers, and teaching support. The Archival Metrics Toolkits, as developed, represent a first step toward standardized evaluation created specifically for archives. Now it is up to the community to adopt these tools and report their use. These are the first standardized questionnaires to target archives and special collections and take into consideration the unique environment of primary sources and the specific dynamics involved in connecting researches with archival and manuscript collections.
Keywords: Archiving, Collections management, Software tools

Summary Over the past five years, they have developed, tested, and deployed five standardized instruments, which archives and special collections in colleges and universities can utilize to conduct user-based evaluations of their services. These five questionnaires focus on researchers, archival web sites, online finding aids, student researchers, and teaching support. They have reported on the creation and scope of those tools, the development of standardized administration procedures, and findings from testing those tools. According to the author, creation of the tools involved an extensive literature review and interviews with instructors, students, and archivists/manuscripts curators, to identify the key evaluative concepts to test. In addition, in the second part of the conceptual framework they identify four areas which are the quality of the interaction with the archivist, quality of the access systems, the physical facilities, and learning outcomes. The Researcher questionnaire evaluates a user’s on-site experience in a repository based on the current visit. It is based administered after a researcher has done some work, not when a person first enters the facility. The Student Researcher and Teaching Support questionnaires are to be conducted at the end of an academic term. The Student Researcher questionnaire is for students who have had formal archival instruction. Furthermore, the orientation section asks about learning in the orientation. The Use of the Archives section has students assess how well the orientation prepared them for their subsequent use of the archives. The Teaching Support questionnaire asks instructors who have utilized the archives or special collections during the previous term to evaluate the service they received. The Online finding Aids instrument asks users to evaluate online finding aids which divided into three areas which are your research, evaluation of the online finding aids, and background information. In the other hand, each questionnaire has been thoroughly tested at different college and university archives or special collections in testing the surveys. They tested the questionnaires in two phases. They also held several focus groups to critique the tools. One of the most valuable parts of the development process was testing the survey administration procedures. Those procedures included the format of the questionnaire, targeting different populations for the survey, and generating a sufficient sample from that population. The authors stated that archives and special collections have far fewer users than libraries. This influenced their preferred administration methods. In both the Online Finding Aids and Archival Web site surveys, it took considerable time to accumulate 50 e-mail reference requestors at several sites. The testing methodology also identified clear differences between population samples. They found that there was little overlap between e-mail reference requestors and onsite reading room researchers from any of the sites. They have tested for reliability in several ways which are through traditional reliability testing of test administration, by examining the range and tenor of the answers to multiple choice and free text questions, and by examining the responses for consistency. The student survey represents an important type of assessment that college and university archives need to be doing to evaluate how well they are meeting the needs of the group and they supporting the mission of the larger institution. While they have developed some measures that show learning outcomes for students exposed to archives, they will be following the use the instrument closely to see whether the findings continue to follow the same patterns.
In short, The Archival Metrics Toolkits are an initial foray into the development of user-based evaluation tools for archives and special collections. The administration and use of primary sources are sufficiently different from libraries that they deserve tools that appropriately measure service to users. User expectations of archives are consistently inaccurate and archives cannot meet these due to the nature of the materials. Likewise, there are fewer users of archives and special collections so administration procedures must be specifically geared to generating a large enough responses rate on which archivists and curators can base decisions.

Authority Elizabeth Yakel, Ph.D. is a Professor at the University of Michigan School of Information where she teaches in the Archives and Records Management and Preservation of Information specializations. Her research interests include use and uses of archival materials and the development of standardized metrics to enhance repository processes and as a result the user experience. Dr. Yakel’s current research project is “Dissemination Information Packages for Information Reuse” where she is studying data reuse and digital preservation of research data in three academic communities which are quantitative social scientists, archeologists, and zoologists. Funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the goal of this research is to identify the significant properties that support both preservation of the bits as well as the preservation of meaning overtime. Second author, Helen R. Tibbo, professor at the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), teaches in the areas of archives and records management, digital curation, electronic retrieval, and reference. She has served on SAA committees and boards for over 20 years and was the co-founder of the SAA Research Forum. She is currently the PI for the IMLS-funded DigCCurr I that is developing an International Digital Curation Curriculum for master’s level students (2006-2009). In April of 2007 the DigCurr Conference attracted close to 300 participants with 100 speakers from 10 countries. DigCCurr2009 will be held April 1-3, 2009 in Chapel Hill, NC. She is also the PI for DigCCurr II (2008-2012) that extends the Digital Curation Curriculum to the doctoral level and will provide week-long summer workshops for digital curation practitioners. Dr. Tibbo is a co-PI with collaborators from the University of Michigan and the University of Toronto for a Mellon Foundation-funded project to develop standardized metrics for assessing use and user services for primary sources. She is also a co-PI with Drs. Gary Marchionini and Christopher Lee on the NSF-funded Preserving Video Objects and Context: A Demonstration Project and its continuation funded by NDIIPP of the Library of Congress. Dr. Tibbo earned her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland College Park in Library and Information Services and has Master's degrees in Library and Information Science and American Studies.
Scope
This article focus on user-based evaluation in archives and special collections is in its fancy, and this paper aims to discuss the conceptualization, development, and testing of Archival Metrics Toolkits. The development and adoption of standardized metrics to support the management of both analog and digital collections is a critical need in archives and manuscript collections. The Archival Metrics Toolkits, as developed, represent a first step toward standardized evaluation created specifically for archives. Now it is up to the community to adopt these tools and report their use.
Currency
This article was published on 2010.
Audience
Based on this article, it is suitable for the students, researcher, archivists, and public user. The authors used simple words and sentences to make the readers easy to read without any obstacles.
Conclusion
As conclusion, The Archival Metrics Toolkits represent a first step toward standardized evaluation created specifically for archives. Now it is up to the community to adopt those tools and give report on their used. They do ask the potential implementers register because they want to track usage as well as the utility of the instruments.

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