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Digitized Special Collections


The objective of this study is to assess the value of digital special collections in support of the University’s goals in teaching, research and outreach.

Gaining a better understanding of how people, both within and outside of the University, make use of these unique digital collections will provide much-needed guidance for planning and decision-making related to allocation of resources, staffing, publicity, and other efforts,  as well as support for demonstrating the library’s value to the university.   

Gayle Baker, University of Tennessee
Rachel Fleming-May, University of Tennessee
Regina Mays, University of Tennessee
Ken Wise, University of Tennessee

The Contingent Valuation Method, used to assess the value of services for which there is no cost to the user, such as access to a library’s electronic journals or digital collections, will be used for this study. A series of questions are asked in a structured interview to determine the willingness to pay for accessing one or more of the GSMRC digital image collections if access involved a cost to the user.  

The subjects were selected by consulting the referring URLS in weblogs for the digitals and from volunteers identified in a short pop-up survey. The interviews are performed via telephone, with one person asking the questions from a prepared list. The calls are recorded and transcribed, with the permission of the subject. All identifying information will be removed from the transcription and any spreadsheets of information derived from the notes/transcripts. The answers to the interview questions are examined to determine the importance or value of the GSMRC digital image collection(s) to the participants.

Google Analytics is used to report usage information derived from log data. The Google usage reports, combined with the results of the interviews can be used to show value.

Key variables of interest: A

  • Amount willing to pay to access collection
  • Google Analytics
    • Bounce rate, page views, pages/visit, time on site
    • Method of access: referral (link), search (keywords), direct URL
    • Unique/returning visitors
    • Location of visitor

Resources required:

  • Programmer to add javascript for Google Analytics
  • Digital voice recorder for interviews
  • Online survey service

As of October 2012, this methodology has been used by the University of Tennessee Libraries.

Key findings / details:
**Data still being gathered**

The surveys and coding for Google Analytics will be available to any interested university.

Pop-up Survey