Academic libraries provide resources and services to support the learning, teaching, and research needs of students, faculty, and staff. Surveys show that students and faculty value academic libraries, their high-quality digital and print collections, and the instructional support that helps them use these resources. Academic librarians are finding creative ways to repurpose library spaces and make optimal budgeting choices.
As pressure on the higher education community to demonstrate value continues, academic libraries are meeting the challenge. Some 59% of chief academic officers rated library resources and services “very effective”—more effective than on-campus teaching and instruction, online courses and programs, academic support services, research and scholarship, administrative information systems and operations, and data analysis and organizational analytics.
The impact of academic librarians on student learning can be seen in the 2014 National Survey of Student Engagement, which reports that 33% of first-year students agreed that their experience at their institution contributed “very much” to their knowledge, skills, and personal development in using information effectively. More impressively, 47% of college seniors agreed with the same statement.
Academic librarians are working largely with reallocated funds to transform programs and services by repurposing space, migrating collections, and redeploying staff in the digital resources environment.
Academic researchers are users of big data, extremely large data sets that are beyond the capability of most software tools to process and analyze. Academic librarians traditionally assess the research needs of academics; however, big data poses new challenges. The sheer quantity and rate of accumulation of data require new skills, but also resources to enable researchers to share, analyze, and reuse it.
In the past three years, 62.6% of academic libraries reported repurposing space for group study, student success areas (writing/tutoring centers), quiet study space, technology learning spaces, and additional seating. Doctoral/research institutions undertook the most renovations (79.5%), followed by baccalaureate schools (60.8%), comprehensive schools (65.1%), and associate degree–granting institutions (47.3%). Within the next five years, 79% of doctoral/research institutions, 69% of comprehensive institutions, 65% of baccalaureate schools, and 45% of associate degree-granting institutions are planning additions, renovations, refurbishments, or new buildings.
A recent survey found that 15.5% of academic libraries expect library space usage to increase significantly with 27.4% of doctoral/research institutions forecasting a significant increase.
Library expenditures for collection materials averaged $6.3 million for doctoral/research institutions, $774,701 for comprehensive institutions, $462,929 for baccalaureate schools, and $144,062 for associate degree–granting institutions. The percentage of the collection materials budget spent on ongoing resource purchases (including subscription expenditures) averaged 68.7% of the total materials budget. On average, doctoral/research institutions spent 74.3% of their materials budgets on ongoing purchases in 2013, comprehensive schools spent an average of 75.4%, baccalaureate schools spent an average of 70.6%, and associate degree–granting institutions spent an average of 54.8%. Between 2000 and 2014, there were 232 new academic library buildings completed in the United States and Puerto Rico, including four new buildings in 2014.
Doctoral/research institutions employed an average of 49.58 professional staff, comprehensive institutions employed an average of 10.8 professional staff, baccalaureate schools employed an average of 6 professional staff, and associate degree–granting institutions employed an average of 5.24 professional staff according to a recent survey.
Academic libraries provided 26.3% of all jobs for new library school graduates in 2013, down from 33.3% in 2012. The most recent survey of first-year students (PDF) found that 0.7% planned to become a librarian.
Academic library expenditures for salaries and wages accounted for 55.4% of the total expenditures on average. Salaries and wages constituted 74.1% of total library expenditures for associate degree–granting institutions, 51.4% for baccalaureate, 52.3% for comprehensive schools, and 43.8% for doctoral/research institutions.
The average salary for academic librarians was $53,000. Two-thirds of academic librarians received a salary increase of 3.4% in 2013. Although most of the raises were cost-of-living or merit pay increases, 9% of academic librarians received increases as the result of a job change.