Results of our 2016 Visitor Survey

Back in Autumn 2016, we participated in the national survey of visitors to archives, which is carried out by the Archives and Records Association (ARA).  The national results have just been published – these may be of more interest to archivists than visitors, but if you’d like to see the results for the whole country, you’ll find them on the ARA website under the heading ‘PSQG National Survey of Visitors Reports’.  For Derbyshire, here are a few highlights:

This compares well to the national averages, which were 9.8 for attitude of staff, 9.7 for quality of staff advice, and 9.3 for the service overall.

The gender profile of our visitors has changed markedly since we last did the survey in 2011.  Then, 52% of our visitors were female and 48% were male.  A lot more men seem to be using us now: in 2016, 62% were male and 38% female.

Five years ago, 81% of our visitors were researching family history.  This has nearly halved – in 2016 only 41%  of our visitors say they are researching family history.  Local history is now the most popular topic of research at 43%.   We can’t say with absolute certainty why this shift has happened, but it’s likely to be caused by the rise in websites like Ancestry and Findmypast.  These websites mean that people can do a lot of their family history online, and don’t need to visit record offices so much.

For the first time, the survey asked people to say specifically what they were researching, and there is a fascinating range of subjects given, from the diary of Henry Colvile’s, who fought in late 19th century Uganda, to changes in church windows over the years.  If you’d like to see a bit more detail about what our visitors are researching, what they said about the Record Office, and our responses to their comments, we’ve compiled the key information into a document: 2016 Satisfaction survey – summary of responses.

You might think that this is all very interesting (or not!) but what impact does it have?  Well, knowing why people use us and what kind of subjects they are researching is enormously helpful in deciding what collections we catalogue or digitise, and the future work we do.   And the scores that our customers give for our various facilities and services help us to plan where we will be making changes.

As an example, the survey tells us that 49% of visitors search our online catalogue before their visit.  However, only 48% of them rated the usability of our online catalogue as very good.   We want more people to use the online catalogue, and for them to find what they want more easily so we’re at the very early stages of ambitious plans to overhaul the online catalogue over the next few years.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey.  I know it can feel like once you’ve popped your survey in the box, nothing happens, but it takes a few months to process the results for the whole of the UK.  Although it’s slow, it does eventually have an effect, so watch this space…


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