2011 Archive Visitor Survey published

Survey of Visitors to UK Archives 'a massive pat on the back'

96% of archive users in the UK rated the overall service they received as ‘very good’ or ‘good’ – the two highest ratings possible.

The 2011 Survey of Visitors to UK Archives is published today. Archives have been seeking feedback from their users since 1996. Two previous surveys, undertaken in 2007 and 2009, used very similar questions to the new survey; taken together the three surveys paint a consistent picture of the archive sector delivering what its users need.

Those taking part in the survey, more than 11,000 users in archives of all sizes and all over the UK, were asked questions about many aspects of the service they received, from a first enquiry, often by phone, through to their visit to an archive and their use of the services available.

‘Helpfulness and friendliness of the staff’ achieved a 95% ‘very good or good’ rating.

The 2011 survey responses saw an increase in those users ticking the highest rating for: website information, physical access to buildings, visitor facilities, catalogues and guides, document delivery, copy services and onsite computer facilities.
The Survey delivers valuable feedback for future service development. The 2011 survey, for example, shows a clear desire for better website information, more catalogues and guides (including online ones) and for longer archive opening hours.

Speaking about the survey, Katy Goodrum, Chair of the ARA said; ‘Any service provider would be delighted with this feedback from its users. Those who work in the UK’s archives may be in a large institution or operate a small, part time service for a highly specialised user.  Whether they serve their users in a university, a local council office, a trust or a commercial company, those who deliver the nation’s archival services – even in these difficult times -  appear to be well in tune with their users’ needs. As well as being a much deserved ‘pat on the back’ these valuable surveys point to where there is still room for improvement’. 

Geoff Pick of the ARA, who Chairs the Public Services Quality Group which organised the questionnaire, said: ‘All of us who work in archives want to deliver the best possible service. But there are always balances to strike, especially when money is scarce. Longer opening hours mean little if material has not been catalogued; money invested in digitisation may reduce the need for other services. As long as we stay close to our users – and continue to ask for their feedback – we can hopefully continue to make the right decisions’.

Other 2011 Survey findings:

  • 22% of respondents were using the archive for business purposes, 18% for educational purposes
  • Slightly fewer users – 60% of those asked - were researching family history than in previous surveys
  • More respondents were making use of the archive’s website
  • Archives appear to be receiving marginally less new visitors but visitors are spending longer in the archive when they visit – 73% stay more than two hours
  • In what may be an interesting sign of less affluent times, archive users are less likely to ‘eat out locally’ when they visit an archive

Read the ARA press release here.

Read the Full 2011 Survey Report here.

Use the 2011 Survey Benchmarking tool here.