use analysis

n.A methodology to assess the worth of records based on the potential for future consultation.


Use analysis requires archivists to be familiar with the needs of their patrons and their past patterns of records use, as well as considering physical, legal, and intellectual impediments to access.


Greene 1998, p. 157 At least three things are glaringly obvious about the utilitarian approach to records appraisal. The first is that it is not perfect. Of course, if no archival theory or practice could be allowed unless it was 'perfect,' we would have not theory or practice. Ultimately, the question becomes whether appraisal based on [use analysis], granted its many imperfections, is better or worse than the proposed practical alternatives. The second is that its practicality and broad applicability depends upon a growing number of use studies. Because every repository serves a somewhat different clientele, has a different mandate from its resource allocators, and must deploy different resources, in an ideal world, every repository would do it own detailed use studies for every segment of its collections. These could be as simple as the MHS call-slip analysis, as complex as a process of user interviews, or as intensive as a citation analysis. The world not being ideal, most repositories will have to extrapolate from studies done by similar institutions regarding similar records. The third is that this is not a Magic Bullet. Utilitarian appraisal does not equal 'easy' appraisal. Unless we abandon appraisal as an archival responsibility, we will never make appraisal easy because we can never make it scientific or mechanistic. If it were otherwise, I am convinced, there would be absolutely no reason for archivists to exist. But a utilitarian method will provide a better rigor and rationale for appraisal decisions.