How do virtual visitors get to the library?

Vivienne Waller (Institute for Social Research, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Publication date: 2 October 2009



The purpose of this paper is to present an exploratory and preliminary analysis of virtual visitors to the web site of the State Library of Victoria (SLV) in order to enable more understanding about the type of content people are accessing on library web sites.


Most of the analysis in this paper is based on web activity data sourced from Hitwise. Different uses of the library web site are investigated as well as the characteristics of the visitors, where they were on the internet before coming to the library web site and where they went afterwards.


Queries on history, places and particular buildings were almost exclusively related to Victorian places or buildings, reflecting the content of the SLV web site. These three categories of query accounted for two fifths of all non‐SLV‐related queries. Most of the analyses presented in this paper have shown little difference over the years 2006‐2008.

Research limitations/implications

One of the things that is very difficult to gauge from the data is whether the user obtained material of interest from the SLV site. To really find this out, one would need to ask the user directly.

Practical implications

This analysis will have implications for libraries' management of their online presence.


This paper differs from most papers on web search as it attempts a manual classification of the long tails of upstream web sites, downstream web sites and search queries. This paper will be of interest to anybody interested in the use of library web sites or information search.



Waller, V. (2009), "How do virtual visitors get to the library?", The Electronic Library, Vol. 27 No. 5, pp. 815-830.

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