First national 'distance' survey of archive users is published

First national survey of archive users 'at a distance' gives 'limited butuseful feedback'

The first survey of archive users who access UK archives via post, email or telephone, rather than visiting in person, took place in early summer 2012. The results have now been published by the Public Services Quality Group (PSQG).

PSQG has been running the 'Survey of Visitors to UK Archives', a highly regarded tool for measuring the satisfaction of those who visit the UK's and Ireland's archives in person, for many years. The Group was keen to add feedback from those who make enquiries from a distance, often using email or post.

Sixty six archives took part in the distance survey and there were 845 responses from all parts of the UK. This level of response gave good national feedback but was not sufficient to give detailed feedback to individual services.
Key findings were:

• Overall, the majority of respondents to the survey cited family history research as the reason for their enquiry. However, for respondents under 45 years old, the single biggest reason for the enquiry was 'work in connection with their employment'.
• The majority of users were approaching the archive for the first time; 20% believed they would be visiting at a later stage
• The gender split of respondents was 50/50
• The largest group of respondents was aged 45 to 64 (49%). Only 2% of users were under 24
• Satisfaction rates were high for most aspects of service: 89% rated the 'quality of content' they received as good or very good; 91% rated the 'clarity of response' as good or very good; and 91% rated the 'promptness of response' as good or very good.

Geoff Pick, Chair of PSQG, welcomed the results of this first survey. He recognised there had been some technical difficulties which had impacted on the level of response and these would have to be ironed out before the survey was undertaken again. 'An archive user is an archive user, whether he or she arrives in person or communicates from a distance. It's essential that we get feedback from all users. This first 'distance' survey has the potential to grow into an essential tool for improvement and sit alongside the well-established 'Visitor' survey'.

Read the full report here.


The 'Survey of Visitors to UK Archives' is taking place in October and November 2012; results will be issued in February 2013.

The next Distance Enquiry Services Survey is expected to run in autumn 2013.



The Survey of Visitors to UK Archives and the Distance Enquiry Services Survey are led by the Public Services Quality Group of the Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland). 

CIPFA (The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) carry out both surveys, guaranteeing the independence and integrity of the results.