Standardized Statistical Measures and Metrics for Public Services in Archival Repositories and Special Collections Libraries - Version 1

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).



In order to support increasing demands on institutions to demonstrate the value they provide their constituents, archivists and special collections librarians have become increasingly mindful of the need to gather, analyze, and share evidence concerning the effectiveness of the operations they manage and the impact of the services they provide. Yet the absence of commonly accepted statistical measures has impeded the ability of archival and special collections repositories to conduct meaningful assessment initiatives and the evaluation and establishment of best practices. Recognition of this two-pronged challenge has manifested itself in a number of ways in recent years, including an assessment-themed issue of RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage, published by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL); assessment-related sessions at the meetings of allied professional associations, including the Society of American Archivists (SAA), American Library Association (ALA), and ACRL’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS); presentations centered on special collections at the biennial Library Assessment Conference sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL); and grant-supported initiatives led by ACRL, ARL, and other organizations aimed at building and fostering cultures of assessment and demonstrating the value that libraries and archives bring to their communities and society at large.

Within this context, SAA and ACRL/RBMS constituted a joint task force in 2014 and charged it with developing standardized statistical measures for public services in archival repositories and special collections libraries. The SAA-ACRL/RBMS Joint Task Force on the Development of Standardized Statistical Measures for Public Services in Archival Repositories and Special Collections Libraries consisted of ten members, five appointed by SAA and five by ACRL/RBMS:


  • Christian Dupont (ACRL/RBMS co-chair), Boston College

  • Amy Schindler (SAA co-chair), University of Nebraska at Omaha


  • Moira Fitzgerald (ACRL/RBMS), Yale University

  • Thomas Flynn (SAA), Winston-Salem State University

  • Emilie Hardman (ACRL/RBMS), Harvard University

  • Jessica Lacher-Feldman (SAA), Louisiana State University

  • Sarah Polirer (SAA), Cigna Corporation

  • Gabriel Swift (ACRL/RBMS), Princeton University

  • Bruce Tabb (ACRL/RBMS), University of Oregon

  • Elizabeth Yakel (SAA), University of Michigan



The Task Force elected to shape the contents of its charge into seven domains, each covering a different area of public services in special collections and archival repositories. Although the domains are interconnected and overlap at points, efforts were made to maintain distinctions to allow for independent collection and analysis of measurements whenever possible. The domains are: User Demographics, Reference Transactions, Reading Room Visits, Collection Use, Events, Exhibitions, and Online Interactions.

Each domain includes a single basic measure within reach of any repository for collection no matter the technology used to gather the data: pencil and paper, spreadsheet, or the newest automated system. The intention is that every repository will collect at least the basic measures, thereby creating the possibility of sharing a common set of statistics that are uniform across many institutions. The domains also contain one or more advanced measures, which repositories may choose to collect as local needs and resources dictate.

The measures are described individually, and are further explained through guidelines for collection and applications and examples for each measure. In addition, recommended metrics are provided to demonstrate different ways in which the measurements can be analyzed, compared, and used by repositories to monitor the effectiveness of their operations and the impact of their services.

Finally, the document’s appendix contains a glossary of key terms that are used to define certain standardized measures and metrics, thereby ensuring that their meanings in the context of this document are clear and unambiguous. Whenever possible, the definitions have been borrowed or adapted from other standards and resources commonly used by libraries and archives, although in a few cases it was necessary to formulate original definitions for the purposes of this document. Whenever a defined term is used in the document, it has been capitalized in order to prompt the reader to consult the relevant definition in the appendix.


Next: Domain: User Demographics


Table of Contents


Measures and Metrics:

Appendix A: Glossary