Reference Metrics

In the third post in our series sharing the results of the SAA-ACRL/RBMS Joint Task Force on the Development of Standardized Statistical Measures for Public Services in Archival Repositories and Special Collections Libraries, we review responses to questions about reference metrics. Overall, the qualitative responses regarding reference reflected very similar themes as those found in theresponses to patron-centered data.

Respondents overwhelmingly count the number of reference transactions at their repositories.

We count this 254 90.7%
We do not count this 11 3.9%
I don't know 3 1.1%
We sometimes take samples 10 3.6%
Not applicable to my institution 2 0.7%

It is not terribly surprising that respondents were close to unanimous in their support for the reference metric with 90.7% of respondents collecting the number of reference transactions at their repository, and 98.2% responding that they strongly agreed or agreed that this information was useful and important to them.

Collecting this information is useful and important to me.
Strongly agree 193 69.4%
Agree 80 28.8%
Disagree 0 0%
Strongly disagree 0 0%
I don't know 5 1.8%



A majority of respondents track the type of information transaction staff handle such as directional, reference, research consultation, reproduction request, or interlibrary loan.

We count this 166 59.3%
We do not count this 85 30.4%
I don't know 6 2.1%
We sometimes take samples 17 6.1%
Not applicable to my institution 6 2.1%

While 59.3% of repositories currently collect this information, 77.8% of respondents strongly agree or agree that collecting it is useful and important.

Collecting this information is useful and important to me.
Strongly agree 98 37%
Agree 108 40.8%
Disagree 30 11.3%
Strongly disagree 6 2.3%
I don't know 23 8.7%

This total, along with the 8.7% of respondents who responded "I don't know" may point to a need by repositories for a standard method of classifying transactions as well as support from the profession for implementing the collection of this piece of data.  



Just over one-third of repositories track the amount of staff time spent assisting users.

We count this 101 36.1%
We do not count this 160 57.1%
I don't know 4 1.4%
We sometimes take samples 14 5%
Not applicable to my institution 1 0.4%

While 36.1% of repositories indicated that they track the amount of staff time, 71.5% of respondents strongly agree or agree that collecting this information is useful and important.

Collecting this information is useful and important to me.
Strongly agree 85 32%
Agree 101 39.5%
Disagree 33 12.9%
Strongly disagree 2 0.8%
I don't know 38 14.8%

Based on the qualitative responses, the skepticism about collecting the time spent may have some connection to the amount of time it may take to track transactions over time, the challenges of multiple staff working with the same user, or the capabilities of existing data collection tools.


There were a couple responses mentioned by multiple respondents that I found interesting. The first is that time spent on a reference interaction was only tracked if it was an email or online interaction was mentioned by four respondents, whereas one respondent shared they only track time spent for in-person interactions. Only four respondents mentioned that their repository has a time limit in place for assisting remote or onsite researchers with one additional respondent indicating that they charge by the hour. There were also many mentions of recently adopted or anticipated systems for data collection that would enable the collection of more specific including time spent.


Posts In This Series

And don't forget to submit your comments on the proposed New Standard for Measuring Public Services by August 22, 2016.