Collections > Master's Papers > School of Information and Library Science > Analysis of remote reference correspondence at a Large Academic Manuscripts Collection

This paper provides an analysis of the remote reference correspondence of the Southern Historical Collection and General and Literary Manuscripts (SHC)_ at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to observe the effects of providing online holdings information and the use of e-mail in reference correspondence. The study examines 595 letter, phone, facsimile, and e-mail correspondence units sent to the SHC in 1995 and 1999. Correspondence units are analyzed to determine the types of research performed, types of questions asked, and the responses of the Southern Historical Collection. The study finds that the amount of remote correspondence increased dramatically between the two selected years, with e-mail becoming the preferred method of inquiry. In 1999, more questions came from casual users researching for personal reasons and more users took advantage of online holdings information to shape their reference questions than in 1995. The proportion of remote users visiting the SHC in person decreased between the two years, suggesting that more users now expect to perform research without visiting the collection. Archivists must be prepared to accept new influxes of remote researchers and to find methods to improve remote reference services.