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Developing digital audience frameworks for Oxford’s GLAM

Elizabeth McCarthy (Public Affairs Directorate, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK)

Performance Measurement and Metrics

ISSN: 1467-8047

Article publication date: 13 November 2019

Issue publication date: 3 December 2019




In order to develop a common framework for strategic planning and evaluation, the Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM) of Oxford undertook a process for defining digital audiences, undertaking user research to inform a new audience framework, which, in turn, is feeding a new approach and the application of the research across the Libraries’ web redevelopment. The paper aims to discuss this issue.


GLAM used qualitative and quantitative techniques to understand how visitors engaged with GLAM digitally: visitor shadowing, exit interviews, diary studies, remote interviews, social media and data evaluation. From these, GLAM focussed on motivational archetypes that apply to visitors across the institutions as well as pen portraits to support those archetypes, and a template for creating new portraits.


The framework helped GLAM develop digital priorities and outline how digital output met the needs of all audiences from a bottom-up user perspective, rather than only through top-down institutional decision making. Most relevant here, learning from the user research hugely informed the Bodleian Libraries’ website redevelopment. The Bodleian Libraries’ work within that framework shows that such a body of research is not solely high level; it can be applied on an institutional and project level to great effect.


Focussing on motivations rather than demographics is a less common way to approach digital audiences. Developing such a cohesive framework for digital audiences before undertaking strategic planning and specific development projects proved a valuable piece of work from which other institutions can learn.



McCarthy, E. (2019), "Developing digital audience frameworks for Oxford’s GLAM", Performance Measurement and Metrics, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 179-185.



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