Joint Information Systems Committee - Archives Sub-committee

Survey of needs

3. Results

3.1 Response rates

3.1.1 Institutions to be included

The initial brief was that the scope of the survey was to be the institutions funded by JISC's four constituent bodies:

Lists of the institutions funded by each of these bodies were obtained from their World Wide Web sites. The pilot study revealed that there were many other bodies, such as colleges, schools and institutes, associated in various ways with the institutions funded by the JISC bodies. Some of these were subsidiary institutions or component parts, while others had varying degrees of autonomy.

After discussion with the Archives Sub-Committee, it was agreed that in addition to the institutions on the funding bodies' lists, questionnaires would be sent directly to those colleges, schools and institutes of the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and London which were recorded in British Archives as having holdings of archives other than their own institutional archives. In addition, the notes issued with the questionnaire suggested that where an institution had two or more distinct and separately managed archival operations a separate return should be made for each; several bodies did this.

In many of the tables and figures in this report, results have been divided into two categories:

Where a "Total" figure has been given, it is the result of a separate calculation with all institutions considered together. An average over the whole list will therefore not be the same as the average of the figures for each of the two categories calculated separately.

The numbers of potential and actual responses in each category were as follows:

  A B C D E F G
  Number of institutions funded by higher education funding bodies (FB HEIs) Number of potential responses, allowing for institutions which provided more than one response Actual number of responses Actual number of responses as percentage of potential Number listed in British Archives as having non-institutional archives Number of responses from institutions included in column E Percentage of responses from institutions included in column E
England 139 187 122 65.2 93 81 87.1
Scotland 19 22 18 81.8 12 10 83.3
Wales 14 14 8 57.1 4 4 100.0
Northern Ireland 2 3 3 100.0 1 1 100.0
Total of FB HEIs 174 226 151 66.8 110 96 87.3
Others: Cambridge 0 30 14 46.7 21 10 47.6
Others: Oxford 0 35 20 57.1 29 17 58.6
Total of others 0 65 34 52.3 50 27 54.0
Total 174 291 185 63.6 160 123 76.9
Table 1: Response rates to questionnaire

3.2 Contents of the archives

The 185 responses received were of the following types:
  FB HEIs Others Total
No archives at all (null return) 4 0 4
Institutional archives only, included in TFPL survey 28 1 29
Institutional archives only, not included in TFPL survey 15 9 24
Archives other than institutional 104 24 128
Total 151 34 185
Table 2: Types of archive included in responses

3.2.1 Institutional archives

Institutional archives, i.e. the archives of the institution holding them, are not within the scope of this survey, and returns which relate solely to these are not analysed further here. They are available for analysis as a supplement to the TFPL survey if required. The rest of this report deals with the 128 returns containing details of non-institutional archives.

Many of the bodies in this last category, holding "archives other than institutional", also held institutional archives. As these are often stored, consulted and managed together with non-institutional archives, combined returns were generally received, although separate figures were provided for the extent and growth of archives of each type.

The following table summarises the institutional archives of 87 institutions that are included in the figures given later for cataloguing, storage, conservation and access.

Holdings now Change in last 5 years
Total extent of holdings 19,680 m Total change 4,056 m
Average holdings 226 m Average change 47 m
Extent of largest holding 3,274 m Largest change 1,100 m
Extent of smallest holding 0.5 m Smallest change 0 m
Table 3: Extent and growth of institutional archives

3.2.2 Non-institutional archives

The questionnaire attempted to distinguish these into two categories:

The intention was that the first of these would represent "archives" in the narrow sense of "fonds", defined in ISAD(G) (1994) as "The whole of the documents, regardless of form or medium, organically created and/or accumulated and used by a particular person, family, or corporate body in the course of that creator's activities and functions". The second was intended to record other primary and unpublished material managed together with the archives. In fact the distinction is not made in many institutions, so the figure for the number of "collections" or "fonds" is not meaningful. Five institutions reported having over 1000 collections, the largest number being 3551 collections, but this may represent many acquisitions of individual items or small groups rather than full collections of papers.

Because of the doubtful significance of the distinction between "collections" and "others", these two categories of non-institutional archives have been combined in the following table showing their extent and rate of growth.

  FB HEIs Others Total
Number of institutions reporting holdings: 100 23 123
Holdings now:
Total extent of holdings 80,947 m 7,503 m 88,451 m
Average holdings 809 m 326 m 719 m
Extent of largest holding 7,951 m 3,337 m 7,951 m
Change in last 5 years:
Total change + 13,247 m + 2,453 m +15,700 m
Average change + 132 m + 102 m +128 m
Largest change +2,000 m +1,106 m +2,000 m
Percentage change + 16.4 % + 32.7 % +17.8%
Table 4: Extent and growth of holdings

The average growth of 17.8% in the past five years corresponds to a compound rate of growth of 3.3% per year, or a doubling in size every 21 years. The higher growth rate of "other" bodies is largely attributable to the small size of their holdings. Their average growth in absolute terms was less than that for FB HEIs.


Figure 1: Distribution of sizes of holding

3.2.3 Collecting policy

Question 2.3: Is there a written acquisition and retention policy?
  FB HEIs Other Total
Yes 49 12 61
No 35 29 64
No answer 1 2 3
Table 5: Acquisition and retention policy

Fewer than half of the total number of institutions had such a policy, though some of those with no written policy said that one was in preparation. There is a statistically significant positive correlation between the presence of any professional staff (full or part time, permanent or temporary) and the existence of an acquisition and retention policy, as shown in Table 6. (c2=15.09 and the probability that this occurs by chance is 0.01%).

All institutions Acquisition and retention policy
Yes No
No answer
Professional staff Yes 56 (57%) 42 (43%) 98
No 5 (17%) 25 (83%) 30
Total 61 67 128
Table 6: Correlation between presence of professional staff
and existence of an acquisition and retention policy

Table 7 shows that FB HEIs that received Non-Formula Funding are more likely to have an acquisition and retention policy than those that did not, although the correlation is not as strong as that for the existence of professional staff. (c2=5.7 and the probability that this occurs by chance is 1.7%).

FB HEIs Acquisition and retention policy
Yes No
No answer
NFF received Yes 31 (65%) 17 (35%) 48
No 23 (41%) 33 (59%) 56
Total 54 50 104
Table 7: Correlation between receipt of Non-Formula Funding for archives
and existence of an acquisition and retention policy

3.3 Cataloguing and listing

3.3.1 Collection level cataloguing

Question 3.1: What percentage of the total number of collections is catalogued at collection level, i.e. a catalogue entry exists for the collection as a whole?
Figure 2: Collection level cataloguing

There is a small positive correlation (r=0.21) between numbers of collections held and the percentage catalogued at collection level. This is expected, because institutions that have a large number of archival collections have more need to make a list or catalogue of the collections held. Those with a small number of collections may take that level for granted and concentrate on cataloguing at lower levels. On the other hand, some of the largest repositories do not use the collection level at all, cataloguing many items directly at lower levels.

Question 3.2: What form do these collection-level records take?

  FB HEIs Others Total
Number of institutions Average % of records in this form Number of institutions Average % of records in this form Number of institutions Average % of records in this form
Local 61 92 19 98 80 93
HTML 20 76 2 100 22 79
ISAD(G) 19 47 2 26 21 45
MAD 11 59 5 51 16 57
MARC 8 61 1 100 9 65
Other 3 71 0 0 3 71
MODES+ 3 50 2 11 5 34
SGML(EAD) 3 42 0 0 3 42
MARC-AMC 2 53 0 0 2 53
SGML(TEI) 0 0 0 0 0 0
Table 8: Form of collection-level catalogue records

In Table 8 the columns headed "Average % ..." are averages of the percentages of collections catalogued according to each standard or style by those institutions that used them, e.g., a total of 3 institutions used SGML(EAD) for collection-level records, and had applied it to 42% of their collection-level records.

The standards and formats cover both content and structure, and are therefore not mutually exclusive. The percentage figures are subject to error, because despite the availability of "Local" and "Other" categories, some institutions attributed a standard or style to less than 100% of their records. The three institutions reporting the use of "Other" standards referred to AACR2, The International Federation of Film Archives, and HURIDOCS.

If we assume that the percentage of collections catalogued in any institution is proportional to the percentage of holdings catalogued, i.e. that overall priority has not been given to cataloguing either large or small collections, we can calculate the percentage of total national holdings catalogued in accordance with each standard. For each institution we calculate the following:

Extent of holdings x Percentage catalogued x Percentage of records conforming to standard

Totalling the figures given by this formula gives the figures in Table 9. The numbers of institutions shown in this table are in a few cases smaller than in Table 8, because some institutions did not provide information on the extent of their holdings and the percentage catalogued.

  FB HEIs Others Total
Number of institutions Extent of holdings Number of institutions Extent of holdings Number of institutions Extent of holdings
Local 60 52,099 19 1,601 79 53,699
HTML 20 15,483 2 3,686 22 19,169
ISAD(G) 19 4,349 2 694 21 5,043
MAD 11 2,249 5 748 16 2,997
MARC 7 454 1 3,237 8 3,691
SGML(EAD) 3 705 0 0 3 705
MODES+ 3 269 2 277 5 547
Other 3 117 0 0 3 117
MARC-AMC 2 66 0 0 2 66
SGML(TEI) 0 0 0 0 0 0
Table 9: Estimated extent of holdings catalogued in accordance with each standard

The data in the right-hand column of Table 9 is shown graphically in Figure 3. Some of the material available in HTML format results from archival records being loaded into a library catalogue which has a Web interface and therefore presents the data to users as HTML.

Figure 3: Standards and formats used for collection-level records

3.3.2 Lower-level cataloguing and listing

Standard archival practice is to organise a fonds hierarchically into series, files and items (possibly with other intermediate levels). The definition of each of these levels from ISAD(G) was given on page 2 of the notes sent with the questionnaire, and question 3.3 asked for the percentages of holdings catalogued at each level. It also asked about the percentages of holdings at each of these levels that had been indexed by names, places and subjects, and the percentage of items that had been calendared.

There were discrepancies in some answers to this question, which asked both for the percentage catalogued and the percentage uncatalogued at each level. The latter item was redundant; it remained from an earlier draft of the questionnaire when more than two options were presented. Some respondents provided responses to both, but they did not always add up to 100%. One reported 20% uncatalogued and 90% catalogued at the series level, while another reported 23% uncatalogued and 1% catalogued. For purposes of analysis, we have used only the figure for the percentage catalogued when one was given, ignoring the stated percentage uncatalogued. When only a percentage uncatalogued was given, we have used the difference between that and 100% as the amount catalogued.

Multiplying the extent of each institution's collections by the percentage it has catalogued at each level, and summing the results, gives the following table for the state of cataloguing of the collections overall:

Extents are in linear metres FB HEIs Others Total
Extent % of total Extent % of total Extent % of total
Catalogued at collection level 61,707 76.2 6,281 83.7 67,989 76.9
Catalogued at series level 40,429 49.9 6,151 82.0 46,580 52.7
Catalogued at file level 41,730 51.6 4,723 62.9 46,453 52.5
Catalogued at item level 27,358 33.3 1,266 16.9 28,624 32.4
Calendared 5,582 6.9 63 0.8 5,645 6.4
Total holdings 80,947 100 7,503 100 88,451 100
Table 10: Total extent of holdings catalogued at each level

Seven institutions had no cataloguing at any level. Two of these were unable to estimate the extent of their collections, and the total extent of the remaining five was 111 metres

A substantial number of institutions have no cataloguing at levels below collection, as may be seen from the following graphs:

Figure 4: Series level cataloguing

Figure 5: File level cataloguing

Figure 6: Item level cataloguing

Figure 7: Items calendared

3.3.3 Relationship between receipt of NFF, availability of professional staff and size of holdings on cataloguing at file and item levels

Cataloguing at file or item level is a measure of adequacy of cataloguing, as this allows an enquirer to request material at the level of the typical production unit. Institutions reported percentages catalogued at each of these levels, and the sum of these percentages has been taken as a measure of the extent of cataloguing. Figures presented in this way are not wholly comparable, because one institution may have catalogued the same block of material at both levels and have other material uncatalogued, while another may have catalogued some material at file level and other material at item level.

Those FB HEIs that received NFF have a greater proportion of their material catalogued at file or item level than those that did not receive this funding. The sums of the percentages catalogued at each of these levels have an average of 84/200 for those that received funding and 61/200 for those that did not. Figure 8 shows the proportions catalogued for each of the FB HEIs. The apparent difference is mainly due to the fact that 30 of the HEIs that did not receive NFF had figures of no more than 50/200, while only 8 of those that received NFF were as low as this. The differences in the means are, however, not statistically significant at a 95% confidence level according to a Wilcoxon two-sample test.

Comparable data is not available for the extent of cataloguing before the funding was provided, so we cannot draw any conclusions from these figures about the effect of funding on cataloguing.

Figure 8: Proportions catalogued for FB HEIs with and without NFF

Figure 9 shows a similar graph for all institutions, distinguishing those that have any professional staff (full or part time, permanent or temporary) from those that have none. The sums of the percentages catalogued at file and item levels have an average of 74/200 for those that have professional staff and 56/200 for those that have none. The differences are, however, again not statistically significant at a 95% confidence level according to a Wilcoxon two-sample test.

Figure 9: Proportions catalogued for all institutions with and without professional staff

Figure 10: Relationship between size of holdings and proportion catalogued at file or item level

There is no clear relationship between the extent of cataloguing and the size of holdings, although there are several points on the "holdings" axis, representing small holdings of less than 1,000 metres that have little or no cataloguing at these levels.

3.3.4 Standards and formats for lower-level catalogue records

Question 3.4: What form do these lower-level catalogue records take?
  FB HEIs Others Total
Number of institutions Average % of records in this form Number of institutions Average % of records in this form Number of institutions Average % of records in this form
Local 80 93 20 98 100 94
ISAD(G) 15 40 2 26 17 38
MAD 14 41 5 51 19 44
HTML 10 40 1 20 11 38
MARC 6 43 0 0 6 43
MODES+ 5 32 3 9 8 23
Other 4 58 0 0 4 58
MARC-AMC 3 37 0 0 3 37
SGML (EAD) 3 10 0 0 3 10
SGML (TEI) 0 0 0 0 0 0
Table 11: Form of catalogue records at lower than collection-level

"Number of institutions" is the number of institutions making all or some of their lists available in this way; "Average % of records in this form" is averaged over the number of institutions concerned. For example, 6 FB HEIs had catalogued records using MARC, covering on average 43% of their holdings.

Some archives commented that their "Local" style was "broadly compatible with", "corresponds closely to" or "takes account of" other standards such as MAD and ISAD(G).

3.3.5 Indexing by name, place and subject

Total number of institutions
Series level File level Item level
FB HEIs Other FB HEIs Other FB HEIs Other
Name 26 7 30 9 51 10
Place 17 7 20 7 36


Subject 20 5 20 7 35 6
Table 12: Numbers of institutions with any indexing at the specified levels

Total extent of holdings
80,947 m
7,503 m
Series level File level Item level
FB HEIs Other FB HEIs Other FB HEIs Other
Name 21.8 7.8 17.6 58.1 27.2 14.1
Place 13.0 9.9 12.3 42.5 17.7 9.7
Subject 7.7 7.8 8.2 38.0 8.1 9.7
Table 13: Percentage of holdings (by extent) indexed at the specified levels Standards for names
Question 3.5: Which, if any, of the following standards do you use or plan to use for forms of name for corporate bodies, persons and families?
  FB HEIs Other Total
Use now Plan to use Use now Plan to use Use now Plan to use
ISAAR(CPF) 5 5 0 1 5 6
AACR2 30 12 5 0 35 12
NCA rules 1997 8 26 1 11 9 37
Other 23 1 3 0 26 1
Table 14: Numbers of institutions using or planning to use standards for names

The "Other" standards listed were as follows. Some institutions used more than one standard:

StandardTimes mentioned
Archive standards as established in 1960s1
BLCMP union name catalogue1
British Library catalogue1
British Library name authority file3
Standards of the central library or archive of the parent institution1
HURIDOCS (AACR2 compatible)1
Library of Congress rules for Slavonic transliteration1
Local standards, some of which are codified14
MODES for Archives syntax1
Museum Documentation Association Spectrum1
National Library of Scotland1
RCHM standards for record repositories1
Scottish Record Office1
Standard reference works1 Standards for place names
Question 3.6: What standards, if any, do you use for the choice and form of place names?

The following standards were listed. Some are in use, use of others is planned.

StandardTimes mentioned
Bartholomew's Gazetteer 1914 for British Isles1
British Library catalogue1
Columbia Lippincott Gazetteer 1961 for world2
English Place Names Society volumes1
Library of Congress1
MAD(1) abbreviations1
National Library of Scotland1
NCA rules 1997 (modified in one case)11
Ordnance Survey1
Scottish Record Office1
Standard reference works3
Standards of the central library or archive of the parent institution1
UK Board on Geographic Names1
No standard stated75 Standards for subject access points
Question 3.7: What standards, if any, do you use for subject indexing or subject classification?

The following were listed:

StandardTimes mentioned
Dewey Decimal Classification1
International thesaurus of refugee terminology1
Library of Congress Classification1
Library of Congress Subject Headings12
Local (based on Bliss in one case)25
NCA rules 1997*2
Social History and Industrial Classification (SHIC)1
Standard reference works1
Standards of the central library or archive of the parent institution2
No standard stated80

*The three preceding lists of "standards" show some misunderstanding of, or lack of familiarity with, the documents quoted, because some of the items listed are not standards either for form or content of the terms they claim to be used for. None of AACR2, ISAAR(CPF), MARC or the NCA rules provides standards for subject indexing, for example.

3.3.6 Software

Question 3.9: What software, if any, do you use for editing and searching your catalogues and lists?

Software listed was as follows:

SoftwareTimes mentioned
4D (relational data base)1
Acrobat Exchange2
CAIRS (including CAIRS-IMS and CAIRS-TMS)4
Cardbox and Cardbox Plus4
Clarisworks database1
Dynaweb and Dynatext1
Dynix or Horizon (Ameritech)4
Filemaker Pro5
Locally developed system3
OLIB (Oracle libraries)1
SGML Author for Word1
SGML version of WordPerfect71
SuperDoc for Windows1
TRIP (Fulcrum Technologies /Paralog Systems)1
Unicorn (SIRSI)3
Word (various versions)28
WordPerfect (various versions)10
No software stated46

Some institutions mentioned that they used Web browsers such as Netscape, the editing tools included in Windows such as Notepad or WordPad, or just "word processing software". These have not been included in the above table, as they are likely to be widely used and not thought worth mentioning by most respondents. Some of the above packages are used for only parts of holdings, are being obtained but not in use, or are being discontinued.

3.3.7 Availability of holdings lists

Question 3.9: For what percentage of your holdings are lists available remotely in the following ways?
  Lists of collections Lists of contents of collections
FB HEIs Other FB HEIs Other
No. % No. % No. % No. %
Lists deposited at NRA or NRA(S) 40 67.2 8 70.5 40 54.2 7 49.4
In published guide 43 65.7 4 78.8 27 43.0 3 21.7
On the Internet 43 73.4 2 60.0 24 32.4 2 40.0
Copies of lists available from the archive 58 80.9 12 71.5 63 52.7 12 61.3
Table 15: Availability of catalogue data remotely from the archive

"No." is the number of institutions making all or some of their lists available in this way;
"%" is the average percentage of holdings for which lists are available, averaged over the number of institutions concerned. For example, 40 FB HEIs had deposited collection-level lists at NRA or NRA(S), covering on average 67.2 of their collections.

Other ways in which information was made available included published directories in print form, CD-ROM or microform, contribution of records to library co-operative databases, and the generation of lists on demand by staff of the archive.

One respondent did not like the use of the term "lists of contents of collections" to cover catalogues and finding aids, but there is no evidence that this was misunderstood by anyone completing the questionnaires.

3.4 Storage

About 93% of archival material (82,450 metres out of a total of 88,451 metres) is stored either in a dedicated archival store or in a store shared with the library. It is not possible to separate these two categories clearly, because in many institutions a single store is used for archives and rare books or "special collections". Some respondents reported this as a dedicated store, while others reported it as shared with the library. The remaining 7% is in offices, workrooms, reading rooms, corridor cupboards, remote stores and elsewhere.

Those institutions that reported details of a dedicated store gave the information in Table 16, showing that stores are on average 87% full. One store was reported as 150% full, having 200 boxes stacked on the floor.

FB HEIs Other Total
No. of institutions Average area No. of institutions Average area No. of institutions Average area
55 249 m2 16 42 m2 71 202 m2
No. of institutions Average % full No. of institutions Average % full No. of institutions Average % full
62 87 21 87 83 87
Table 16: Area and fullness of archival stores

There is a small positive correlation between the size of holdings and the fullness of stores (r=0.135), but almost all the institutions with archives of over 1,000m have stores that are over 80% full, as shown in Figure 11.

Figure 11: Fullness of stores vs. extent of holdings

Question 4.3: Do you have a copy of the British Standard BS5454:1989 "Storage and exhibition of archival documents"?

  FB HEIs Other Total
Yes 77 16 93
No 23 8 31
No answer 4 0 4
Table 17: Availability of BS5454

Question 4.4: What percentage (by extent) of your holdings is stored in accommodation with the following features:

  FB HEIs Other Total
Continuous monitoring of temperature 55 15 70
Temperature within correct limits 53 11 64
Continuous monitoring of humidity 53 15 68
Humidity within correct limits 50 10 60
Total numbers of institutions in sample 104 24 128
Table 18: Numbers of institutions having any material stored in monitored and stable conditions

  FB HEIs Other Total
Continuous monitoring of temperature 59.3 44.8 57.6
Temperature within correct limits 57.8 37.2 55.4
Continuous monitoring of humidity 58.0 44.8 56.5
Humidity within correct limits 56.8 37.2 54.6

Total extent of holdings in sample

80,947 7,503 88,451 m
Table 19: Percentage (by extent) of total holdings stored in monitored and stable conditions

Question 4.5: How satisfactory is your storage accommodation overall? (Be guided by the requirements of BS5454)

  Poor Fairly poor Average Fairly good Good
FB HEIs Other FB HEIs Other FB HEIs Other FB HEIs Other FB HEIs Other
Structure and material of building 4 2 8 0 23 7 31 9 34 4
Custody and security 2 2 7 3 18 0 34 6 38 12
Fire precautions 6 1 9 3 23 9 16 4 44 6
Environment 11 2 18 6 24 7 19 5 30 6
Lighting 6 3 12 2 30 7 19 5 30 6
Storage and production equipment (particularly shelving) 6 1 18 5 21 6 19 6 33 5
Packing for storage (Containers, boxes, etc.) 8 3 10 1 19 5 30 6 29 8
Separate or additional provision for multimedia and photographic collections, which need different conditions from paper 40 13 14 3 20 5 6 0 9 0
Table 20: Numbers of institutions assessing their storage accommodation as falling in each category

Question 4.5: How satisfactory is your storage accommodation overall?

Figure 12: Aspects of storage accommodation - average assessments

Figure 12 shows that the storage environment is the aspect assessed as poorest, apart from multimedia storage, for which many institutions have no specific provision.

Question 4.5(b): What aspects most need improvement to make your storage comply with BS5454?


Figure 13: Aspects most needing improvement to comply with BS5454

Figure 13 shows that the environment is also the aspect that is perceived as most in need of improvement to make the storage comply with BS5454.

3.5 Conservation

  FB HEIs Other Total
Deteriorating and worth physical preservation: urgent treatment needed 9.7 4.1 9.0
Deteriorating and only worth preserving content: copying required 10.0 0.2 8.9
Should be treated for long-term preservation or to repair damage, but not urgent 29.1 32.4 29.5
Condition adequate and stable: no treatment required 32.5 17.9 30.8
Condition has not been assessed 20.1 16.4 19.7
Total extent of holdings in sample 80,947 m 7,503 m 88,451 m
Table 21: Percentage (by extent) of total holdings in various states of conservation

The percentages in Table 21 do not add up to exactly 100% because some of the responses did not do so.

Question 5.2: Are the figures in Table 21 based on an assessment by an archival conservator?

  FB HEIs Other Total
Yes 18 2 20
No 74 20 94
Partially 4 1 5
No answer 8 1 9
Table 22: Whether condition has been assessed by an archival conservator (numbers of responses)

Question5.3: Has a condition survey been carried out?

  FB HEIs Other Total
Yes 21 1 22
No 66 19 85
Partially 11 3 14
No answer 6 1 7
Table 23: Whether a condition survey has been done (numbers of responses)

Question5.4: Does your institution have its own facilities for archival conservation?

  FB HEIs Other Total
Yes 25 2 27
No 75 21 96
No answer 4 1 5
Table 24: Existence of conservation facilities (numbers of responses)

Question5.5: Does your institution use an external conservation service?

  FB HEIs Other Total
Yes 60 12 72
No 38 7 45
Consortium service 0 3 3
No answer 6 2 8
Table 25: Use of external conservation services (numbers of responses)

3.6 Staffing

The following table shows the number of staff posts in each category and the number of institutions in which they exist:

  FB HEIs Other Total
Number of instns. Total number of posts Number of instns. Total number of posts Number of instns. Total number of posts
Professional permanent 1997 64 94.7 14 9.6 78 101.8
1992 62 92.2 12 8.9 74 103.6
Professional temporary 1997 50 120.2 3 2.4 53 122.6
1992 21 29.5 2 1.4 23 30.9
Non-professional permanent 1997 37 48.2 4 1.5 41 49.7
1992 33 43.7 3 1.3 36 45.0
Non-professional temporary 1997 38 57.4 5 3.5 43 61.0
1992 14 13.3 3 1.5 17 14.8
Conservators permanent 1997 11 12.5 1 0.2 12 12.7
1992 10 12.5 1 0.2 11 12.7
Conservators temporary 1997 15 32.5 1 0.2 16 32.7
1992 9 11.0 1 0.5 10 11.2
Table 26: Numbers and types of staff posts in 1997 and 1992

3.6.1 Professional archives staff

Figure 14: Numbers of institutions employing professional archival staff in 1992 and 1997

By adding sectors on these charts we can show that, for example, 54 institutions (42%) had no permanent professional staff five years ago, and that 50 institutions (39%) have no permanent professional staff now. 23 institutions (18%) had temporary staff in 1992 and 53 institutions (42%) have temporary staff now.

  Pie chartPie chart
Figure 15: Numbers of institutions categorised by number of full-time equivalent professional archival staff

Of those institutions that had professional staff in 1992, 54 had only one full-time equivalent (f.t.e.) or less and 30 had more than one f.t.e. In 1997, 56 institutions had one f.t.e. or less, and 42 had more than one f.t.e.

3.6.2 Non-professional archives staff

  Pie chartPie chart
Figure 16: Numbers of institutions employing non-professional archival staff in 1992 and 1997

Almost half of the institutions have no non-professional staff for archival work, and in 20% of institutions all the non-professional staff are on temporary appointments.

  Pie chartPie chart
Figure 17: Numbers of institutions categorised by number of full-time equivalent non-professional archival staff

Most institutions that have non-professional staff have one f.t.e. or less. In 1997, 22 institutions (17%) had more than one non-professional staff post working on archives; this has increased from 12 institutions (9%) in 1992. One institution had nine temporary posts in 1997 and one has had ten permanent posts for the past five years.

3.6.3 Conservation staff

Out of the total of 128 institutions being analysed, 110 had no conservation staff in 1992 and 107 had no conservation staff in 1997. The numbers of institutions with different categories of conservation staff are shown in Table 27.

Numbers of institutions with: 1992 1997
No conservation staff 110 107
Permanent conservation staff, no temporary conservation staff 8 5
Both permanent and temporary conservation staff 3 7
Temporary conservation staff, no permanent conservation staff 7 9
More than 0, up to 1, f.t.e conservation staff. 9 8
More than 1, up to 2, f.t.e conservation staff. 9 6
More than 2 f.t.e. conservation staff 0 7
Table 27: Numbers of institutions with different categories and numbers of conservation staff

Seven institutions are shown in Table 27 as having more than two members of conservation staff; of these only two institutions have more than two staff on permanent appointments. The others have either all temporary conservators or one or two permanent plus three temporary each.

3.7 Staff accommodation

Question 6.2: Is there a dedicated office area for archives staff?
  FB HEIs Other Total
Yes 51 11 62
No 48 13 61
No answer 5 0 5
Table 28: Availability of archival staff office

The figures given for staff accommodation are not all directly comparable, because in some cases these areas are also used for archive storage or as archive consultation areas used by readers. In some cases, too, they relate to the area occupied by a "special collections" section of a library, including archives, rare books, and other types of material.

Question 6.3: If there is a dedicated office for archives staff: (a) What is its floor area? (b) How many staff places are there?

All areas in m2 FB HEIs Other Total
No. of institutions responding 49 11 60
Average office area 49.7 22.8 44.8
Maximum office area 297.1 90.0 297.1
Minimum office area 2.0 4.0 2.0
Average no. of places 5.1 1.4 4.4
Maximum no. of places 36 2.0 36.0
Minimum no. of places 1 1.0 1.0
Average area per place 13.5 19.5 14.6
Maximum area per place 99.0 90.0 99.0
Minimum area per place 2.0 6.0 2.0
Table 29: Office accommodation for archives staff

The wide range from 99 m2 per place down to 2 m2 per place, is partly accounted for by some "offices" also accommodating some archival storage or readers' places

The figures for "Number of institutions responding" in Table 29, Table 31 and Table 34 are approximate, because some respondents gave only some of the items of information included in the tables.

Question 6.4: is there an archives workroom, separate from the office, for jobs such as sorting, listing, packing and minor repairs?

  FB HEIs Other Total
Yes 23 4 27
No 75 20 95
No answer 6 0 6
Table 30: Availability of archival staff workroom

Question 6.5: If there is an archives workroom: (a) What is its floor area? (b) How many staff places are there?

All areas in m2 FB HEIs Other Total
No. of institutions responding 19 3 22
Average office area 22.9 8.9 21.0
Maximum office area 75.0 18.0 75.0
Minimum office area 3.8 3.0 3.0
Average no. of places 2.3 1.0 2.1
Maximum no. of places 6.0 1.0 6.0
Minimum no. of places 1.0 1.0 1.0
Average area per place 11.3 8.9 10.9
Maximum area per place 25.0 18.0 25.0
Minimum area per place 3.8 3.0 3.0
Table 31: Workroom accommodation for archives staff

Question 6.6: Do the archives staff share work areas and equipment with the library?

  FB HEIs Other Total
Yes 65 15 80
No 29 8 37
No answer 10 1 11
Table 32: Sharing of work areas and equipment with library

Many respondents pointed out that the archives staff were library staff, so that joint use of space and equipment by the two functions was inherent in the arrangements.

3.8 Reading room accommodation

Question 7.1: What percentage of the archival reading area is of each of the following types?

  FB HEIs Other Total
No. % No. % No. %

Dedicated archive reading room

31 91.5 0 - 31 91.5

Designated area within a library reading room

12 86.1 1 100.0 13 87.2

Reading area shared with the library

41 91.7 10 90.0 51 91.4

Reading area shared with staff offices or workroom area

20 80.0 12 91.7 32 84.4


5 85.0 3 100.0 8 90.6
Table 33: Types of archival reading area

The percentages in Table 33 show the proportion of an institution's reading area of each type, averaged over the number of institutions that had any reading area of that type. For example, 31 FB HEIs had a dedicated archive reading room, and for those 31 institutions that room represented on average 91.5% of their reading space.

The distinctions between types of reading area are not clear-cut, so too much significance should not be read into the detailed figures in this table. Institutions that had "special collections" reading rooms or reading areas were sometimes uncertain as to which of the first three categories applied, and when staff used part of a reading room as an office or work area it was not easy to tell whether the fourth category applied.

Question 7.2: If you have a dedicated or designated archive reading room: (a) What is its floor area? (b) How many reader places are there?

All areas in m2 FB HEIs Other Total
No. of institutions responding 42 8 50
Average reading area 58.6 11.4 51.1
Maximum reading area 225.0 27.5 225.0
Minimum reading area 4.0 1.0 1.0
Average no. of places 12.6 3.8 10.8
Maximum no. of places 54.0 14.0 54.0
Minimum no. of places 1.0 1.0 1.0
Average area per place 6.2 4.2 5.9
Maximum area per place 50.0 9.0 50.0
Minimum area per place 1.0 1.0 1.0
Table 34: Floor area and number of places in archival reading area

  Pie chart
Figure 18: Floor area per reader place

Question 7.2c: What is the average area of working table surface per reader place?

Pie chart
Figure 19: Working table surface per reader place

Question 7.2d: On what percentage of days is the reading area full (all the places occupied simultaneously)?

Figure 20: Reading area occupation rates

3.9 Use: reader visits, enquiries and production units delivered

3.9.1 Reader visits

Question 7.3: How many reader visits are there to the archives each year?

  FB HEIs Other Total
No. of institutions responding 82 24 106
Average number of visits 593 126 488
Maximum number of visits 10,000 850 10,000
Minimum number of visits 1 3 1
Table 35: Numbers of reader visits per year

Among the responses that did not give figures for visitor numbers were those from two new facilities that were not yet open or did not yet have a count of numbers. A check with the respondents confirmed that the two largest figures of 10,000 and 6,269 visits per year are the numbers of visits to dedicated archives facilities.

Figure 21: Numbers of reader visits per year

3.9.2 Enquiries

The recording of enquiries varies between institutions. Telephone enquiries, for example, are not always recorded and have been estimated or omitted in some of the figures supplied. The institution reporting the largest number of enquiries, 20,000 per year, has confirmed that these are all archive-related, but the second-largest, with 12,657, is a "Special collections" department that does not distinguish enquiries about archives from those relating to other material.

Question 7.4a: How many enquiries do you answer each year by phone, fax, letter or electronic mail?

  FB HEIs Other Total
No. of institutions responding 84 24 108
Average number of enquiries 894 307 763
Maximum number of enquiries 20,000 3,000 20,000
Minimum number of enquiries 0 5 0
Table 36: Numbers of enquiries per year

Figure 22: Numbers of enquiries per year

In general, the institutions with larger holdings receive larger numbers of enquiries per year, as shown in Figure 23, but there is a wide range of scatter of an order of magnitude in each direction.

Figure 23: Relationship between extent of holdings and number of enquiries per year

Question 7.4b: How many "production units" do you deliver to users each year?

  FB HEIs Other Total
No. of institutions responding 65 23 85
Average number of production units 3,815 6,40 3,068
Maximum number of production units 50,518 4,000 50,518
Minimum number of production units 0 10 0
Table 37: Numbers of production units delivered per year

Figure 24: Number of production units delivered per year

There is a positive relationship between the extent of holdings and the number of production units delivered per year, but again with a wide scatter, as shown in Figure 25.

Figure 25: Relationship between extent of holdings and number of production units delivered per year

3.10 Perceived priorities

Question 7.5: How important is each of the following factors in limiting the use of your material?
  Unimportant Fairly unimportant Average Fairly important Important
FB HEIs Other FB HEIs Other FB HEIs Other FB HEIs Other FB HEIs Other
Lack of staff 11 5 8 2 17 1 20 4 40 11
The archive is not widely known 16 5 5 1 23 7 23 7 27 2
Inadequate documentation makes finding material difficult 11 3 17 1 20 4 22 11 25 2
The material is specialised with a small number of potential users 12 1 7 1 30 2 21 9 25 10
Lack of accommodation for users 40 8 18 2 14 4 11 7 13 1
Inadequate storage makes production of material difficult 47 11 16 5 10 4 6 1 15 1
The physical condition of material requires that use be limited 33 10 27 3 25 7 6 2 5 0
Lack of equipment 46 7 20 6 17 8 6 0 5 1
Table 38: Total numbers of marks given in each category for factors limiting use

These features are listed in order of importance for FB HEIs, by taking the mean score on each factor. These scores are shown graphically in Figure 26.

Figure 26: Factors limiting the use of archives, in order of importance for FB HEIs

Question 7.5b: What aspects most need improvement to make your archive more accessible and increase use?

Figure 27: Aspects most needing improvement to increase accessibility and use

3.11 Comments from respondents

3.11.1 Relating to the questionnaire

Several respondents commented that they are currently receiving many questionnaires; one said that they were coming at the rate of one per week, and that as a result it was not possible to allocate more than 10 minutes to completing each. Two of the people completing the pilot version of the present questionnaire said that it took 40 minutes and 3 hours respectively, the former time being possible only because information had been assembled for a previous questionnaire. The burden of responding to questionnaires is clearly a factor that will limit the quality of information collected.

Some said they found the questions "difficult to answer", "complex", or "very time-consuming", while others found some of the questions to be unanswerable by or irrelevant to small archives. Many archival holdings were treated as part of the "special collections" department of a library and it was not possible to separate out data relating specifically to archives. Some specialised types of material, such as photographic archives, had been catalogued and dealt with as museum objects, using different rules and principles.

Because of the above points, and shortage of time/staff/available statistics, figures were often estimated rather than measured, and some questions were left blank. Nevertheless, some respondents had obviously gone to considerable trouble to collect and record data as fully and accurately as possible.

Many commented that the figures they gave would be out-of-date shortly because of pending changes. Successful bids for outside funding would lead to more space or staff or better conservation, or staff numbers would soon drop from their present levels because they included several project-funded temporary posts.

Some commented on the great difference in conditions within their institution, with some material in "excellent new accommodation", but others in "very poor" buildings, sometimes unable to be upgraded, air-conditioned, etc., because of being a listed building.

3.11.2 Comments on funding

Smaller institutions need help to allow them to complete basic tasks, including staff for listing of holdings and finance for necessary but expensive conservation projects. Worries were expressed that project funding concentrates on special backlog projects and "glamorous digitisation projects" to the neglect of more routine work.

Return to table of contents
Go back to section 2: Methodology
Left arrow
Go on to section 4: Conclusions
Right arrow