Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, November 01, 2007

What's attracting visitors to your IR?

Brian Mathews, What gets viewed?  An exploratory study of large IR collections, The Ubiquitous Librarian, October 31, 2007.  Excerpt:

In my work circle there has been a lot of talk about growing our institutional repository. There is a big push to add meaningful content. The thing that I always get hung up on though is usage. I’m very interested in what people find useful, and my feeling is that if I’m going to pitch this service to my faculty, then I need to prove to them that the stuff is actually being seen....

So I decided to do a mini study. I wanted to see what the top items viewed were across several universities. I used ROAR to identify DSpace collections in the US, and then sent emails to the libraries with the 10 largest collections....[Eight of them] provided me with a list of their top 20 most viewed items. (Thanks!)

I should note that Georgia Tech and U of Oregon were the only organizations in this sample that allowed open access to their statistics.

The results were very eclectic, as expected, however there were definite themes that emerged....

Someone should publish a scholarly article about this and perform a detailed synthesis on these collections, but in the mean time, here are the top viewed items from each of the collections: ...

There is definitely a lot of long-tail action going on too. Most of the repositories featured one or two heavily used items, but then dropped off drastically....

Some questions:

  • Why is the U of Maryland IR used so heavily? Their top 3 items blow away everyone else (34,768 hits; 32,916 hits; and 32,214 hits respectively)
  • How are people finding this stuff? Google? Native Searches? Catalog Searches? Direct Links? We need to run an analytics program.
  • How many of these hits are from web crawlers or related software?
  • Why the long-tail? What makes those top few items so popular? And just how long is the tail? Could you say something like 90% of everything in our IR was viewed at least once over the past two years?
  • If you place your IR within your metasearch tool, will it pad your results?
  • Is there a big difference between views and downloads?
  • Why does the DSpace interface still look so mid-1990’s?
  • How are items obtained? Is it piecemeal or more systematic? Are we building collections or is it random take-what-we-can-get?
  • What is the percentage of dissertations? (or, take away dissertations and what have you got left?)
  • What non-text items are collected (mp3, videos, jpg, etc)?
  • Leaving the  big vision rhetoric aside, what is the goal of each IR?
  • How do you measure the success of an IR? Is it volume or downloads or something else?