An Experiment to Increase Online Archival Accessibility: Using Unique Page Views to Measure Online Efficiency


  • Jonathan Dembo East Carolina University
  • Mark Custer East Carolina University



finding aids, Joyner Library, Special Collections, online, website, access, manuscripts, Google Analytics,


The authors, Prof. Jonathan Dembo and Prof. Mark Custer have used Unique Page Views generated by Google Analytics to identify and track ten of the least used online manuscript finding aids on the Special Collections Department home page of the J. Y. Joyner Library website at East Carolina University.  The authors are unaware of previous attempts to use online access statistics to identify and select archival finding aids for experimental purposes.  They are also unaware of any previous attempt to use online access statistics, Unique Page Views (UPV's) or Google Analytics to track and assess the results of finding aid revision experiments. In their experiment, Prof. Custer first generated reports showing Unique Page Views of each online finding aid.  Prof. Dembo then revised the finding aids to add information to selected elements, including biographical / historical notes, scope notes, accession information, and inventories. He then tracked the changes in unique page views over more than a year.  The authors' findings demonstrate that increasing detail to the finding aids had a dramatic impact on unique page views received.  Comparable finding aids selected as a control sample increased at a fraction of the rate of the revised finding aids.  Moreover, the authors provide evidence to show that revisions to specific online finding aid elements significantly impacted the relative ranking of the finding aids on the website.  Prof. Custer who developed Google Analytics as a research tool at Joyner Library has provided Notes on Technical and Statistical Methods.  The authors have also provided five tables illustrating the results and providing web addresses for all the finding aids included in the experiment. 

Author Biographies

Jonathan Dembo, East Carolina University

Special Collections Department ; Associate Professor & Special Collections Curator

Mark Custer, East Carolina University

Special Collections Department ; Assistant Professor