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Report on London Metropolitan Archives distance enquiry survey 2017

During the three-month period September - November 2017, LMA was one of 51 archive services across the UK which invited their distance users to participate in a survey organised by the Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland) in conjunction with The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).

This was the fourth distance survey since its inception in 2012 in comparison with the onsite visitors’ survey which is now well established.

The same questions set in 2015 were used for this Survey to provide consistency. The Survey began by asking the respondent how they had found out about the distance enquiry service; then there were questions around their reason for contacting the archive service and why they had chosen to make a distance request rather than to visit in person. The next section asked a number of questions to review different aspects of the distance enquiry service including an overall rating. The Survey finished with a series of demographic questions to provide a profile of the individual enquirer. Space was also provided should the respondent wish to make a comment about any aspect of the archives’ service.

The Survey was run as LMA was rolling out its new enquiry management software and staff IT systems were also being upgraded with new hardware and software – challenging times! We were aware that these major IT changes had affected the delivery of some of our enquiry responses, but LMA still received a 90% response rate to the Survey. This was an increase of 5% from the last Survey and LMA was one of 2 archives to achieve the highest number of responses nationally.

Enquirers can now make a direct request via a form on the LMA website as well as by sending an email to and just under 60% of respondents had indeed used the website to find out about LMA’s enquiry service which was an 8% increase from the last survey.  81% had rated the website as Very Good/Good. 64% of respondents were enquiring about family history research, a much higher figure than for the national results and 17% higher than those using onsite services at LMA. However 23% were either contacting LMA in connection with their work or for educational reasons. Around 30% of respondents said that they lived too far away to visit LMA, but 14% said that it was more convenient to make a remote enquiry rather than to visit in person. Only 1% said that they could not visit during LMA’s opening hours & 5% said that it saved on travel costs.

It was pleasing to note that overall 92% rated LMA’s distance enquiry service as Very Good/Good and that similar ratings were also achieved for quality of content and clarity of response. In comparison with the 2015 Survey there has been a 6% increase in satisfaction ratings with the promptness of response.

In a direct contrast to the results of the recent LMA Visitors’ Survey where 15% were first time users, the Distance Survey showed that nearly 68% of those contacting LMA were first time enquirers. 28% of LMA’s enquirers lived outside Europe demonstrating the international scope of LMA’s collections.

In the final section respondents could indicate any improvements or changes to the service. Most of these related to putting more information online, improvements to the online catalogue and to the website. Readers may recall that at the end of 2017, and notably after this Survey was run, LMA launched a number of improvements to the collections catalogue and significant new and additional records were added to Ancestry.

The next survey will be an onsite visitors’ survey scheduled to take place later in 2018. The distance users survey will be run again in 2019. Please do complete the survey forms as they provide useful information and feedback for us to improve our services.

08 May 2018
Last Modified:
23 May 2018