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  • This article was downloaded by: [Ams/Girona*barri Lib]On: 10 October 2014, At: 03:37Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Journal of Archival OrganizationPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wjao20

    How Researchers Search for Manuscript and ArchivalCollectionsSusan Hamburger MLS and MA and CA and PhD aa Cataloging Services, 126 Paterno Library , The Pennsylvania State University , UniversityPark, PA, 16802 E-mail:Published online: 22 Sep 2008.

    To cite this article: Susan Hamburger MLS and MA and CA and PhD (2004) How Researchers Search for Manuscript and ArchivalCollections, Journal of Archival Organization, 2:1-2, 79-102, DOI: 10.1300/J201v02n01_07

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J201v02n01_07

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  • How Researchers Search for Manuscriptand Archival Collections

    Susan Hamburger

    ABSTRACT. By conducting a survey of a cross-section of researchersat six major research libraries, the author sought to determine the useful-ness of specific online resources to find primary sources, to ascertain re-searchers awareness of these sources, and to uncover their discoverymethodology. The survey results demonstrate that the majority of re-searchers continue to utilize traditional methods of uncovering primarysources and do not take full advantage of online resources. The authoroffers four recommendations that archivists can implement to assist re-searchers with online discovery. [Article copies available for a fee from TheHaworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: Website: 2004 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.]

    KEYWORDS. Online searching, primary sources, research strategies,archival finding aids, user survey

    INTRODUCTION

    The author undertook this study to determine the searching strategiesof a range of researchers including faculty, graduate and undergraduate

    Susan Hamburger, MLS, MA, CA, PhD, is Manuscripts Cataloging Librarian, Cat-aloging Services, 126 Paterno Library, The Pennsylvania State University, UniversityPark, PA 16802 (E-mail: sxh36@psulias.psu.edu).

    This article is a revised version of a paper presented at a session entitled, UserStudies in the Digital Age, at the annual meeting of the Society of American Archi-vists, Denver, CO, August 31, 2000.

    Journal of Archival Organization, Vol. 2(1/2) 2004http://www.haworthpress.com/web/JAO

    2004 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.Digital Object Identifier: 10.1300/J201v02n01_07 79

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  • students, genealogists, and professional authors at six major research li-braries. Because the Internet is a relatively new tool for discovering theexistence of manuscript and archival collections in libraries and ar-chives, the author hoped to determine the usefulness of the Internet andof specific resources available online to find primary sources, to ascer-tain researchers awareness of these resources, and to uncover their dis-covery methodology.

    LITERATURE REVIEW

    A search of library and archival literature revealed several user stud-ies, but none specifically addressing searching behavior in relation tomanuscript and archival collections. Henk J. Voorbij reported on aDutch academic user survey that found that traditional resources (in-cluding tables of contents of periodicals, the online public access cata-log (OPAC), citations, and colleagues) ranked highest, and humanitiesrespondents attached the highest value to books. Voorbij concluded thatrespondents lacked awareness of Internet resources.1 Duke Universitylibrarys user survey project noted that most users said that their firstresource when beginning new research was an expert on the subject,usually a friend, colleague, or contact at a professional meeting. Fac-ulty were least oriented toward computerized access, and were mostlikely to utilize the more esoteric research publications (e.g., manuscriptmaterials and conference proceedings).2 A United Kingdom study, fol-lowing up a 1995-1998 project, determined that the teaching of infor-mation skills in general still relies heavily on traditional, non-webmethods.3 Helen Tibbos research on how well Web search engines re-trieved specific electronic finding aids highlighted poor, at worst, andspotty, at best, retrieval performance.4 An online survey to examine thesearch behavior of users performing subject searches at the Universityof California, Santa Cruz confirmed earlier findings that more experi-enced users are disinclined to perform subject searches. Of those userswho did subject searches, 82 percent had at least one zero-retrievalsearch, but three-quarters of the users obtained useful citations afterpersisting.5

    Considering the exponential growth and permeation of the Internetinto academia, while acknowledging the lag time gap between humani-ties scholars and their scientific colleagues in embracing the new tech-nology, the question remained: are historians and literary scholarsavailing themselves of Internet resources to discover untapped primary

    80 JOURNAL OF ARCHIVAL ORGANIZATION

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  • materials, or do they remain tied to traditional research methodologyand word-of-mouth? Focusing on users seeking manuscript and archi-val collections, the author surveyed researchers at six repositories withonline finding aids for their manuscript collections.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF RESEARCH PROJECT

    The author designed a survey (Appendix) to ascertain how users lo-cate manuscript collections: finding aids online, catalog records online,paper finding aids, OCLC/RLIN/OPAC (Online Computer LibraryCenter/Research Libraries Information Network/online public accesscatalog), National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC)paper volumes or online, word of mouth, by phone, e-mail, or in-persondrop-in. The author also wanted to know how researchers search: key-word, phrase, Boolean, subject, title, or personal name. Computer-re-lated questions ascertained the frequency of use, comfort level, andpersistence. The survey asked respondents to check a list of ways theylocate manuscripts, rank the usefulness of tools, and evaluate the useful-ness of Internet/online resources when researching manuscript collec-tions. To determine how the respondents searched, they were asked forthe topic of their research, their search strategy, if they were successful,and how they searched with their specified terms. Demographic data in-cluded age, gender, race, and academic status.

    METHODOLOGY

    The author contacted seven east coast repositories6 that are activelymounting a substantial portion of their finding aids on the World WideWeb using EAD- and/or HTML-encoding. Five, plus the authors homeinstitution, agreed to participate in the paper-based user survey.

    In April 2000, the author visited four of the repositories and left fiftyuser surveys at each to distribute and return in a postpaid priority mailenvelope. Representatives from the fifth repository received their sur-veys in person at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference inMay.7 The repositories were asked to make the surveys available totheir clientele in the reading rooms where manuscripts and archivalcollections were requested. Since the surveys were voluntary, the re-sponse rate varied by the willingness of researchers to fill out the formand return it to the desk, the number of researchers during the two-to

    Susan Hamburger 81

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  • three-week survey period, and the aggressiveness of reference staff toask researchers to complete the survey. Of 300 surveys, the author re-ceived 131 from the six repositories, a 43.6% return rate (Tab

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