Methodological issues in standardization of statistical data collection practices in Quebec’s archival centers

Natasha Zwarich and Dominique Maurel

Abstract

Since the survey of heritage, museums and archives carried out in 2005 by the Institut de la statistique du Québec, no statistical portrait of the management of archival centers in Quebec has been produced. The archival centers have shown a real need for up-to-date statistical data to assess the results achieved and progress made to their programs, to identify strengths and weaknesses and to make the necessary improvements to their practices. Led by a steering committee of practicing archivists and professors in the field of archives and information governance, a statistical portrait of archival centers in Quebec was conducted in two phases. The first phase (2015-2016) aimed at determining the subjects to address during a large-scale survey to assess the status of archival centers in Quebec from the point of view of their management, resources and programs. The second phase (2016-2017) allowed us to administer the survey. These two projects are part of similar initiatives carried out in Canada such as Nova Scotia’s Needs Assessment and the Government of Canada’s Survey of Heritage Institutions.

These projects started out as projects that aimed to offer Quebec archivists quantitative data that will allow them to compare themselves to organizations in their category and measure the performance of their activities. However, the results soon revealed a lack of uniformity in statistical data collection practices and in the units of measurement used by archival centers, both for the records management and historical archives components, therefore, hindering the ability of archival centers to take advantage of comparative statistics for strategic purposes.

In this presentation, we will discuss the methodological issues encountered while collecting and analyzing statistical data from various archival centers. We will also present the next phase of the project that will examine the diversity of practices using questionnaires and focus groups targeted to the needs of Quebec’s archival centers, depending on their sector of activity (i.e. education, government, etc.). Ultimately, this third project will provide standardized data collection tools tailored to each sector of activity. This toolkit will ensure a more systematic and high-quality collection of data in future editions of the statistical survey on the state of archives centers. This will increase the comparability of the data collected and provide a more accurate picture of the profession.

Bio

Natasha Zwarich is a Professor in Archives and Records Management in the History Department at the Université du Québec à Montréal. She holds a PhD in Information Studies from the School of Information Studies at McGill University. Her research interests include electronic records management, including issues related to e-mail management, metadata, information literacy, and information governance, specifically standardized performance indicators in archival science. She is a member of the Steering Committee of the Groupe interdisciplinaire de recherche en gouvernance informationnelle (GREGI) with Dominique Maurel and Christine Dufour, both associate professors at the École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de l’information (EBSI) of the Université de Montréal. She held various positions as an archivist in public organizations for nearly ten years.

Dominique Maurel is an Associate Professor of Information Science at the Université de Montréal. She holds a PhD in Information Science from the École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de l’information (EBSI) of the Université de Montréal. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto. Her research interests focus on information behaviours and practices, knowledge management, information governance, and records and theory of document genre. She has established the Groupe interdisciplinaire de recherche en gouvernance informationnelle (GREGI), of which she is a member of the Steering Committee with Associate Professor Christine Dufour (EBSI, Université de Montréal) and Professor Natasha Zwarich (History Department, Université du Québec à Montréal).