Measures and Metrics: Domain: User Demographics

Update: The comment period for Version 1 closed on August 22, 2016. Version 2 will be released for comments in January 2017. Archivists and special collections librarians should direct further comments to Task Force co-chairs Amy Schindler (SAA) and Christian Dupont (ACRL/RBMS).

Basic Measure (“User Type”)

Count the number of unique Users who are affiliated with the Repository’s organizational home as distinct from all other Users.

Guidelines for collection:

  • Identify criteria that distinguish “affiliated” or “internal” Users from “non-affiliated” or “external” Users.

  • External Users are those not affiliated with the organization by employment, formal membership, or similar.

  • In different organization types internal User types can be defined in numerous ways. For example, in an educational environment internal Users would be instructors, professors, staff, alumni, and students; in private or business environments internal Users would be employees and consultants; in religious organizations internal Users would be religious leaders and congregants; in historical societies internal Users would be members of the organization; in local government archives internal Users would be employees and residents of the locality.

  • Exclude Repository staff unless they are consulting the collections for purposes other than their employment with the Repository (i.e., personal or independent research).

Application and examples:

  • Count the number of internal Users. Count the number of external Users.

  • Archives and special collections that are part of a larger organization should determine whether to count Users from another branch of the same organization as internal or external.

Advanced Measure (“Registered User”)

Gather information about the Users who have applied and received permission to gain access to Repository materials (primarily Reading Room visitors).

Guidelines for collection:

  • Registered Users are primarily those who have registered for on-site access to the Repository materials via the Reading Room or who have done the same for online access to electronic records not available to the public.

  • For Repositories that allow online or pre-registration, only those Users who have completed their registration should be included as Registered Users.  

Application and examples:

  • Count the number of Registered Users per day/week/month.

  • Having the number of Registered Users for a given period of time will allow Repositories to track the number of new Users and provide advanced Reading Room metrics by comparing new and returning Users.

Advanced Measure (“User Affiliation”)

Gather information about the affiliation or association of Users as relevant to the Repository.

Guidelines for collection:

  • Classify Users according to their relationship or affiliation to the Repository’s organizational home such as by department or other unit, employer, alumni, student, citizen of a locality, etc.

  • Track where Users call home by zip code, state, country, or other appropriate geographic classification.

  • User affiliation may be developed for specific Repository types such as government archives, business archives, academic archives, etc.

Application and examples:

  • Track Users as relevant to your organization. For example, some archives would track Users by divisions, departments, or other business units; local government archives may wish to gather information about whether Users are from their locality or another locality; some archives may wish to track student Users by grade level (K-12, undergraduate, or graduate).

  • A Repository may decide to track Users who are from a specific nearby museum or other organization because the organization’s staff use the Repository so frequently.

Advanced Measure (“Type of Use”)

Gather information about why Users are making use of the Repository and categorize the use.

Guidelines for collection:

  • Track the reasons Users are using the Repository with categories or predetermined options.

  • The reasons Users may be using repositories could include: school, genealogy, publication, administrative, films, media, personal interest, or other reasons.

  • Predefined classifications or categories may be developed for specific Repository types such as government archives, business archives, academic archives, etc.

  • Repositories may ask Registered Users to identify their own Type of Use and choose to compile Type of Use details for other Users when that information is available.

  • Repositories may choose to gather Type of Use data by presenting a list of predetermined options as well as an “other” field. If a free text field is offered with the “other” option, repositories should review the data gathered in that field periodically and review if their predetermined options are in need of updating. For example, a Repository sees that over time fewer of their Users are using the collection as part of the process of writing books, but more of their Users are involved in the production of films.

Application and examples:

  • If the marketing department, alumni association, or other unit in the larger organization that produces articles for publication uses the Repository’s holdings in the production of an article, video, or other publication, classify this as an administrative type of use rather than a media use. Instead, classify inquiries from external Users as media use.

Recommended Metrics

Total number of Users by type

  • Graphing the total number of Users by type and the total number of visits by type can illuminate a pattern of use.

  • Trends over time may point to areas for particular focus. For example, if a Repository is seeing a decreasing number of internal Users making use of the Repository this could point to a need to educate staff of the home organization about the Repository’s collections, staff, and services.

  • Graphing the total number of Users by type over a given period of time can reveal usage patterns and effectiveness of outreach and marketing programs for different types of Users.

Compare type of use with User type

  • Tracking the type of research transaction by the type of User can lead to insights and improvements in information delivery of materials. For example, if external Users are making use of the collection for a specific purpose such as genealogy, the Repository may wish to prepare research guides or other tools highlighting collections of most use to genealogists, do outreach to genealogy groups, or undertake similar activities.

Compare the geographical location of Users (local vs. “out of town”)

  • Tracking geographical locations of Users could assist in identifying ways to improve service. For example, if the Repository attracts many Users who are not from the local community the Repository may wish to pursue a partnership with the local visitors center to provide other information about the community the Repository is located in to the Users while they are at the Repository.

  • By tracking the number of Users and their length of stay, repositories can create and share data about the economic impact the repositories’ visitors have on the local economy as part of their advocacy efforts.

  • Repositories with a mission focused on a local community may wish to track where they fall in achieving that aim.



Next: Domain: Reference Transactions

Table of Contents


Measures and Metrics:

Appendix A: Glossary