26 January 2008

Training Day

C.W.S. Manchester brass band The next Training Day for contributors (and potential contributors) will be on Monday February 25th, 2008, at The University of Manchester. If you would like to attend, please email archiveshub@mimas.ac.uk. Photo copyright © National Co-operative Archive. All enquiries about photographic collections and copyright to archive@co-op.ac.uk.

Labels: ,

22 January 2008


Medical organisation papers January 18th, 2008: The Hub's 20,000th description is for the records of the Bridge of Earn Hospital, Perthshire, provided by the University of Dundee Archive, Records Management and Museum Services (ARMMS). Images copyright © University of Dundee.

14 January 2008

Facebook and research support: the jury's still out

I thought it was worth posting something I've just been reading on another blog. The question was posed: If you could contact a librarian via Facebook or MySpace for help with your research, would you? If not, why? This is something that is interesting to many of us at the moment - the value of Facebook to our work as archivists and in user support. This research refers to librarians, but doubtless the results for archivists would be similar. It was also carried out in the States, although I suspect UK students might have similar ideas. The survey found that a total of 23% of respondents stated yes or maybe they would be interested in contacting a librarian via these two social networking sites, so there is some scope for this. Undergrads had a slightly higher than average percentage of 34%. However, nearly half of the total respondents stated they would not be interested. The reasons given were various - the biggest reason being that they feel the current methods (in-person, email, instant messaging) are more than sufficient. 14% said no because they felt it was inappropriate or that Facebook/MySpace is a social tool, not a research tool. This is an opinion that has been expressed on several occassions in talks and articles I have read. I'm interested to see whether this changes as the service develops, although my suspicion is that by this time next year we'll be talking about a different social networking service anyway! My feeling as far as the Archives Hub is concerned is that I would still be happy to put up a search widget and to enable people to contact us via Facebook - it may be a minority but that's fine - it just gives people another option if they want to take it. Have a look at the survey results at http://onlinesocialnetworks.blogspot.com/2008/01/data-students-facebook-library-outreach.html Image: No Facebook - Blessington St, St Kilda by avlxyz from Flickr (Creative Commons licence)

Labels: , ,

05 January 2008

The 34 minute article...paper or electronic?

At the recent Online Information Conference I attended a very interesting session looking at what usage data can tell us about users of libraries. This session emphasised the importance of maximising library investments through better data gathering. Of course, the same would apply to archives, but we have very little detailed usage data for archives as far as I am aware. However, I think that we can to some extent benefit from analysis of library users, so I thought I would give a summary of the session in this blog.

Dr Carol Tenopir, a Director of Research at the University of Tennessee, spoke about the results of a survey of library users from five American universities. Her team were looking particularly at journal use, both print and e-journals. The survey looked at such things as last article read, value of the reading, purpose of the reading and other details such as age of reading, source, time spent, etc. The survey team asked how many articles were read in the last month. On average, academics read 23 scholarly articles a month and spend 34 minutes reading (based on the last article read). Students read 15 articles a month and spend 36 minutes. Often they were reading to just get the main points rather than reading in depth. At the same time the time spent finding articles has decreased.

The number of articles read has increased over the last 30 years, but the time taken to read each article has decreased - in 1977 each article took on average 48 minutes to read. This suggests that we are more inclined to skim read than we used to be, maybe partly due to the huge amount of literature available to us?

The results surrounding print versus electronic media were interesting. It made me think about the debates in the archive world surrounding the importance of access to the original archive and the value of digital surrogates. The survey found that around 65% read electronic articles and therefore a third of people still use print journals, so there is clearly still a substantial market for good old fashioned texts. Older articles are judged more valuable and are more likely to be sourced from libraries. The survey found that since 2005 older articles are read more, which may be to do with improved ability to search the systems available and access to back-files. Of the articles published within the last year, 43% are likely to come from the library, but for articles over 5 years old around 70% are from the library. For academics, older articles are more likely to be for research and are considered more valuable.

Respondents to the survey were not necessarily sure where they got articles from when they browsed the Web – they may have carried out a search and thought they got access from a free website, but actually access was really via a website that the library subscribes to. This is an interesting point because the library may not therefore be seen as the source for journal articles and researchers may therefore value the role of the library less than they should do.

Students read a higher percentage of older articles, with around 20-25% of reading from the current year. This is not surprising because students prioritise the required reading for courses (reading lists set by tutors). Only a small percentage of students read to keep up with the literature and even less for personal interest, though a higher proportion of post-graduates read articles for these reasons. Over 80% of articles are sourced from the library and most are electronic, indicating that younger users do prefer electronic out of choice.

In terms of the value of reading, a number of categories were given for respondents to pick from - the greatest value was placed on inspiring new thinking, followed by improving results, changing focus, resolving technical problems, saving time, collaboration, faster completion of work and lastly there was a category for wasted time! - Of course we would like to think that in a similar survey of the value of archives users would value their role in inspiring new thinking – it would be great to gather evidence to show that this is one of the important reasons that people use archives.

Academics under 30 get around 87% of articles from electronic sources, and the figure goes down as the readers get older, but it is still around 50% for those over 60. However, interestingly those under the age of 30 print 77% of articles onto paper, and this is very little different from all academics, who print out about 80% of the articles they read. Students do tend to read more on screen, at around 30%. It will be interesting to see how this changes over time - whether students who become academics in say 10-15 years time are still more inclined to read on screen rather than print out articles. It may partly depend upon the devices used by then and the ease of reading on screen. I wonder what sort of effect devices like Amazon's new wireless reading device Kindle will have? I believe that this isn't available in the UK at present, but it seems to have made quite an impression in the States - there was an interesting debate on the Web4Lib email list and a blog entry worth reading on 37signals.com

Labels: , ,