Progress Report October 2015

SAA-ACRL/RBMS Joint Task Force on the Development of Standardized Statistical Measures for the Public Services of Archival Repositories and Special Collections Libraries: 

SAA Progress Report

(Prepared by:  Amy Schindler, SAA co-chair, and Christian Dupont, ACRL/RBMS co-chair)


Summary of Meeting Activities:

The SAA-ACRL/RBMS Joint Task Force on the Development of Standardized Statistical Measures for the Public Services of Archives Repositories and Special Collections Libraries created by the SAA Council and RBMS Executive Committee in 2014, met ten times in-person or via conference call as a group between August 2014 and September 2015. At the 2015 SAA Annual Meeting a joint lunch forum with the Joint Task Forces for Holdings Counts and Primary Source Literacy was held on Thursday, August 20, 2015. After brief presentations by each task force, the remainder of the forum was available for questions and comments. The Task Force handout from the forum is attached and available on the Task Force SAA microsite. Approximately 50 attendees were present for the forum. Four attendees joined the seven members of the Task Force in attendance for our meeting on August 21, 2015, providing further valuable discussion and feedback.




During fall 2014, the conference call discussions led to the formation of subgroups charged with developing lists of terms, definitions, and current statistical measures for seven functional areas that the task force members determined fit within the scope of their charge, namely: users/customers, visits, collections use, events/activities, reference transactions, reproductions & interlibrary loan requests, and website visits. During December and January the subgroups worked independently to begin fleshing out their respective “domains” documents, maintained in a shared Google Drive folder. This work stalled during spring 2015, as the Task Force co-chairs and members experimented with different approaches to organizing and coordinating their work.. 


Since June 2015, task force members have been productively drafting a document composed of definitions, basic measures, advanced measures, and metrics, which include guidance for collection, applications, and examples. The intention is to make the basic measure easily collectible by any repository regardless of their staffing level or system in use to collect and report data (paper, spreadsheet, application, etc.) while also providing guidance to repositories that wish to develop robust assessment programs. See the attached handout from the forum held at the SAA Annual Meeting for a sample entry for one of the statistical domains (visits) that presents these elements in the form the Task Force expects to use for its final document. Feedback from the forum confirmed the validity of this approach. Having now a clearer vision of what the completed standardized statistical measurements document will look like has enabled the work to progress more systematically and rapidly through online small-group work sessions conducted via Skype, conference call, or other means, on a weekly or more frequent basis. 


From August-September 2015, the Task Force created and solicited responses to a survey designed to gather information from archivists and special collections librarians about current practices and priorities for standardized measures for public services. Despite the length of the questionnaire, 311 complete responses were received. Not surprising, academic libraries and archives contributed the bulk of responses initially, but further promotion and outreach was successful in soliciting submissions from a broader range of repository types:. 

Business: 5.8%

College or university: 51.6%

Government: 12.3%

Historical Society: 3.9%

Museum: 8.1%

Private or personal: 1%

Religious: 4.5%

Research library or manuscript repository: 5.8%

Tribal: .3%

Other: 6.5%


Initial analysis revealed that 90.6% of responding repositories collect data of some sort about public services, indicating the relevance and importance of the standard the Task Force has been charged with developing. The numerous opportunities provided for free text responses will require extensive effort to review and code. The Task Force expects to post a report summarizing survey results in the coming months.



Prepare publicity material (articles for respective newsletters, etc.) with other Joint Task Forces as appropriate.

Pursue opportunities to present on the Task Force work at relevant conferences.

Prepare first public draft for feedback in 2016.

Analyze survey responses.

Submit recommendations for new and revised terms and definitions to SAA Dictionary Working Group.. 



None at this time. The Task Force will in the future request an extension to its two-year term ending in August 2016 as it is anticipated that several rounds of public comments and revisions will be required because the draft it will present next spring will represent a new standard reflecting the interests of two professional organizations and will be lengthy and technically detailed.