Parsing the State of State Records Report: Reference and Online Engagement

Feb 21, 2020

Parsing the State of State Records Report: Reference and Online Engagement

 
by Veronica Martzahl
 
Providing access to collections, whether physical or digital, is a core function of archives although the methods utilized to provide this service continue to evolve in response to technological advances.  Survey respondents were asked to separate their reference interactions into one of the following four categories:
 
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While not all respondents track their reference activities according to these categories, the majority were able to provide sufficient data to determine totals for longitudinal comparison. The number of responses in all categories increased from FY2016. When we look more broadly, the overall trend for in-person and telephone reference has tended to trend downward. Postal mail is also seeing an overall decline since CoSA started tracking this date in FY2006. A strong possible explanation for this change is the slow, but steady, increase in electronic communication as a reference tool as well as the opportunities for information seekers to find their own answers on agency websites and social media platforms.
 
When it comes to social media, 37% of respondents indicate that they use social media for reference interactions, up from 29.5% in the FY2016 survey. The most prevalent use of social media was for promotion of public/educational programs and of collection. It is also frequently used to promote profession-wide initiatives such as Electronic Records Day and Archives Month. Around half of respondents use platforms for exhibits. An emerging area of use is to crowdsource archival activities, especially transcription of documents or identification of photographs. Facebook continues to be the most frequently cited platform although it did drop from the FY2016 survey. Twitter remained a close second and remained relatively stable. It will be interesting to see if larger political and social considerations further impact these numbers in the next survey. 
 
 


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