12 · Survey Results: Executive Summary
activity 18 of 78 (23%) also have a space beyond the
library buildings. These include student spaces, alum-
ni centers, and collaborations with museums, most
notably the National Museum of American History.
Libraries are using a wide variety of approaches to
promote their exhibits, with library and university
Web sites emerging as the most popular and suc-
cessful method. Respondents are also promoting ex-
hibits through social networking sites and blogs, but
they are not convinced that these methods are very
Approximately half of 70 respondents attempt
to evaluate the success of their exhibits, primarily
through some type of count (door counts, Web statis-
tics, and attendance numbers). Less frequently used
assessment methods include surveys, e-mails, and
anecdotal user feedback. Respondents have reported
changes such as increased collaboration with faculty,
extending hours, standardization of design, increase
in the number of exhibits, and a more focused ap-
proach to promotion as a result of these assessment
As with exhibits, events are nearly universal among
ARL special collections departments as an approach
to outreach seventy-five (96%) participate in and host
events such as lectures, open houses, and symposia
to highlight their collections. Graduate students and
faculty are slightly more likely to be primary target
audiences than undergraduates or other scholars/
researchers affiliated with the institution.
Again, for the majority of respondents (44 or 56%),
primary responsibility for coordinating special col-
lections events varies depending on the event. This
can be due to a number of reasons: expertise related
to the highlighted collection, knowledge of the audi-
ence, origination of the idea for the event, personal or
professional relationship with the donor, event loca-
tion, department/library organizational structure,
staff work schedules, and, simply, who has the most
interest in hosting or participating in the event. For
the 25 respondents indicating that primary responsi-
bility falls to one individual or one individual leading
a team of staff, this position is most often the head or
director of special collections. Planning and hosting
events may be collaborative at a broader institutional
level, involving members of the campus community
or library-wide support and planning for a significant
or important intended audience.
As might be expected given the emphasis on
events, 56 of the respondents (73%) say that special
collections has a space within library buildings, other
than a reading room, designated for events. These
spaces include lecture halls, lobbies or atriums, class-
rooms, conference rooms, event halls, and spaces
that have been re-purposed for a special collections
event. Seventeen respondents have a designated space
beyond library buildings for events, consisting of
auditoriums, campus museums, and galleries and
classrooms in other buildings. One respondent notes
that the choice of venue depends on the constituencies
they are trying to reach. An event featuring football
films, for example, might be hosted in the football
Press releases and direct mailings are the most
popular and successful methods for promoting
events. Interestingly, one-on-one contact is the most
reported form of event promotion while used by 70
respondents (92%), only 18 (24%) consider it to be most
successful approach. Social networking sites are be-
ing used by 27 respondents (36%), but only four of
those rate this as the most successful promotional
method. Additionally, several respondents utilize
campus and local media to promote events. The titles
of recently held events supplied by respondents show
that events are closely related to collections. The list
also reflects the diversity and uniqueness of holdings
throughout ARL member institutions.
About a third of all respondents have no formal
measures in place to evaluate events. The rest of the
respondents overwhelmingly report using attendance
to gauge an event’s success, followed by anecdotal
feedback as the second most commonly reported
measure. Surveys, course evaluations, and increases
in reference queries are other evaluative indicators of
the success of an event. Of the 53 respondents who
attempt to evaluate events, 21 (40%) report making
changes based on what they have learned. Examples
include changes in the areas of publicity, scheduling,
and target audiences.
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