How Researchers Search for Manuscript and Archival Collections

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<ul><li><p>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</p><p>Journal of Archival OrganizationPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:</p><p>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.</p><p>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</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of theContent. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon andshould be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable forany losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use ofthe Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematicreproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p></p></li><li><p>How Researchers Search for Manuscriptand Archival Collections</p><p>Susan Hamburger</p><p>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.]</p><p>KEYWORDS. Online searching, primary sources, research strategies,archival finding aids, user survey</p><p>INTRODUCTION</p><p>The author undertook this study to determine the searching strategiesof a range of researchers including faculty, graduate and undergraduate</p><p>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:</p><p>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.</p><p>Journal of Archival Organization, Vol. 2(1/2) 2004</p><p> 2004 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.Digital Object Identifier: 10.1300/J201v02n01_07 79</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Am</p><p>s/G</p><p>iron</p><p>a*ba</p><p>rri L</p><p>ib] </p><p>at 0</p><p>3:37</p><p> 10 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>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.</p><p>LITERATURE REVIEW</p><p>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</p><p>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</p><p>80 JOURNAL OF ARCHIVAL ORGANIZATION</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Am</p><p>s/G</p><p>iron</p><p>a*ba</p><p>rri L</p><p>ib] </p><p>at 0</p><p>3:37</p><p> 10 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>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.</p><p>BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF RESEARCH PROJECT</p><p>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.</p><p>METHODOLOGY</p><p>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.</p><p>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</p><p>Susan Hamburger 81</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Am</p><p>s/G</p><p>iron</p><p>a*ba</p><p>rri L</p><p>ib] </p><p>at 0</p><p>3:37</p><p> 10 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>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 (Table 1).</p><p>USER SURVEY</p><p>Respondents were almost equally representative of faculty, graduateand undergraduate students, and other researchers (genealogists, pro-fessional authors, and independent researchers) (Table 2). The respon-dents ranged in age groups from 17-22 to 66-80 (Table 3). The majorityof respondents were male Caucasians, followed by female Caucasians,with a handful of African-Americans and Hispanics; Asians, if they par-ticipated, did not self-identify (Table 4). The author hoped the broadsample would yield meaningful data and comparative results.</p><p>Two of the key overarching themes the survey attempted to answerwere: What is the search strategy that researchers follow when seekingmanuscripts and archives online? and, Do researchers actually take</p><p>82 JOURNAL OF ARCHIVAL ORGANIZATION</p><p>TABLE 1. Number of Responses by Institution</p><p>REPOSITORY SURVEYS</p><p>Duke University 12</p><p>Harvard University 17</p><p>Library of Congress 50</p><p>New York Public Library 20</p><p>Pennsylvania State University 17</p><p>University of Virginia 15</p><p>TOTAL 131</p><p>TABLE 2. Respondents by Status</p><p>Faculty Graduate Students Undergraduate Students Other Researchers</p><p>41 33 17 41</p><p>TABLE 3. Age of Respondents</p><p>Age 17-22 23-30 31-40 41-50 51-65 66-80</p><p>Respondents 17 23 29 26 21 5</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Am</p><p>s/G</p><p>iron</p><p>a*ba</p><p>rri L</p><p>ib] </p><p>at 0</p><p>3:37</p><p> 10 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>advantage of controlled vocabulary or do they use a less precise key-word search? The survey responses indicate a disconnect betweenknowledge of computers and the use of computers to aid in discoveryfor these materials among all levels of researchers across institutions.While 92 percent use the computer daily (Table 5) and 75 percent claimthey can navigate through the online environment easily (Table 6), themajority of them locate manuscripts from footnotes in articles or books(Table 7, part e). Even though they indicate they use the librarys onlinecatalog and the librarys web site, their responses on the surveys indicatethat they are still guessing which library to contact and searching onecatalog at a time. They are not availing themselves of new online meth-ods of finding collections of materials in repositories whose holdings ei-ther do not appear in the older printed sources or who have recentlyacquired collections. They appear ignorant of OCLC and RLIN as ac-cess tools, and are almost universally unfamiliar with ArchivesUSA(Table 8). Twenty-six checked that they search the paper copy ofNUCMC that has been superseded by ArchivesUSA online (Table 7,part e). Faculty responses (Table 7, part a) indicate the traditional re-search methodology, while the computer-savvy undergraduates unsuc-cessfully try to find manuscripts via Internet search engines. As HelenTibbo pointed out, the Internet search engines just do not do the job; shetook known finding aids and tried to find them using several commer-cial search engines and got terrible results.8</p><p>When ranking the order of usefulness of specific tools, seventy per-cent chose the online catalog, fifty-eight percent chose paper finding</p><p>Susan Hamburger 83</p><p>TABLE 4. Race and Gender of Respondents</p><p>Cases</p><p>Valid</p><p>N Percent</p><p>Male African-American 3 2.3%</p><p>Male Caucasian 60 45.8%</p><p>Male Hispanic 3 2.3%</p><p>Male, no race response 4 3.1%</p><p>Female Caucasian 43 32.8%</p><p>Female Hispanic 2 1.5%</p><p>Female, no race response 6 4.6%</p><p>No gender response, Caucasian 1 .8%</p><p>No gender or race response 9 6.9%</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Am</p><p>s/G</p><p>iron</p><p>a*ba</p><p>rri L</p><p>ib] </p><p>at 0</p><p>3:37</p><p> 10 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>aids, fifty-seven percent selected the manuscript card catalog, andfifty-four percent chose the Special Collections web page (Table 8).Eighty-nine percent of the respondents found what they were lookingfor. Seventy-eight percent did a keyword search, while thirty-one per-cent searched for a personal name, and twenty-three percent used a sub-ject search. Unfortunately, many of the respondents did not followdirections and write in the terms they used so it is difficult to analyze theaccuracy of their searches. In the cases when they did provide the searchterms, it is a wonder that they found what they wanted.</p><p>For example, one researcher at the Library of Congress indicated atopic of National Council of Jewish Women concerning German-Jew-ish refugees, 1933-1950s. The search strategy moved from checkingfootnotes to NUCMC, e-mail, and then an onsite visit. But this personsearched the librarys online catalog for the National Council of JewishWomen as a title. Duplicating this search retrieved zero hits. However,when the author queried the same online catalog in a name browsesearch, the phrase yielded twenty-five records, one of which is for theRecords of the National Council of Jewish Women, 1893-1989 (bulk1940-1981). When a Duke respondent looked for information on the na-val history of the Civil War, he separately searched individual libraryonline catalogs. His subject, Red River campaign, is actually Red RiverExpedition, 1864 in the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH),thus explaining why he did not find anything by searching Red Rivercampaign.</p><p>There seems to be a preponderant dependence on personal names evenif the research is topical. For example, a Library of Congress researcherwas looking for the U.S. Navys economic impact on Wilmington, NorthCarolina during the Civil War and chose to look up three personalnames: S. P. Lee, David Dixon, and Louis M. Goldsborough. Only the</p><p>84 JOURNAL OF ARCHIVAL ORGANIZATION</p><p>TABLE 5. Computer Use</p><p>Use Computer Daily Use Computer Weekly Use ComputerOccasionally</p><p>Use Computer Rarely</p><p>120 2 2 6</p><p>TABLE 6. Comfort Level with Computers</p><p>Use only under dure...</p></li></ul>