Do finding aids help researchers to know what's in a collection?

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The Legacy grants quite rightly place an emphasis on project outcomes. But articulating outcomes can be one of the most difficult parts of writing a grant proposal if you are too near to the topic. Our thinking went something like this: if the collections are processed, they will have finding aids. If they have finding aids, then potential researchers will be able to locate them. If researchers can locate the collections, then they will be used. Use, after all, is our chief objective. And we track use of collections carefully.

But how do we know that the finding aids are actually working? For this project, we decided it would be interesting to include a brief survey embedded as a link in each finding aid. If the survey was brief enough, potential researchers might respond to our questions and give us valuable feedback that would either confirm or upend our assumptions about the value of finding aids. And while we were at it, we wanted to find out how potential researchers discovered the finding aids in the first place. We settled on these survey questions and will embed a link to the survey into the finding aids themselves as they are completed and posted:

1. I discovered this finding aid by
doing keyword searches on the web
searching the finding aids database at http://special.lib.umn.edu/
searching from the University Archives home page http://special.lib.umn.edu/uarchives
searching the University of Minnesota Library catalog http://lib.umn.edu
following a direct link to the finding aid that an archives staff member referred me to
Other (please specify) ________

2. After reviewing this finding aid, I have a better sense than I did before about what is available at University Archives (options - strongly agree through strongly disagree)

3. The information in this finding aid helped me decide whether or not this collection will be useful for my research (options - strongly Agree through strongly disagree).

4. What information did you wish was included in the finding aid? ____

5. Please share any comments about the usefulness of the information in the finding aid or the format or presentation of the finding aid. ____

We're curious to see if anyone responds!

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