Academic Libraries

State of America's Libraries 2017

David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina
The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, was recognized in the 2016 American Library Association/International Interior Design Association Library Interior Design Awards. Photo: Robert Benson Photography

Building on past initiatives to demonstrate library contributions to student learning and success, ALA’s Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) is developing an action-oriented research agenda (PDF) to address two important questions: “What are the ways that libraries align with and have impact on institutional effectiveness?” and “How can libraries communicate their alignment with and impact on institutional effectiveness in a way that resonates with higher education stakeholders?”

Asserting the value of academic libraries

A recent ACRL report (PDF) summarized four compelling findings about library contributions to student learning and success:

  1. Students benefit from library instruction in their initial coursework.
  2. Library use increases student success.
  3. Collaborative academic programs and services involving the library enhance student learning.
  4. Information literacy instruction strengthens general education outcomes.

The results of third-year ACRL assessment projects strengthen these findings with new evidence that library research consultations also boost student learning.

Although only 44.8% of entering first-year students (PDF) have had experience evaluating the quality or reliability of information, and even fewer (29.3%) have looked up scientific research articles and resources, academic librarians can see their impact on student learning reflected in the results of the 2016 National Survey of Student Engagement (PDF) (see the summary). The survey shows that 77% of first-year students participating in the survey agreed that their research experiences at their institution contributed “very much” or “quite a bit” to their knowledge, skills, and personal development in using information effectively. More impressively, 83% of seniors agreed with the same statement. Seventy-three percent of first-year students and 67% of seniors reported that their instructors emphasized “questioning the quality of information sources.”

Academic libraries continue to allocate new and renovated space (PDF) to support at least one of the following types of learning activity—collaborative study, individual study, tutoring by campus learning partners, or occasional classes taught by campus instructors.

Changing collections and practices

Participation in Open Education Initiatives: 40.5% of doctoral/research universities, 22.4% of comprehensive institutions, 21.2% of baccalaureate schools, and 24% of associate degree–granting institutions reporting participation.

According to statistics gathered by ACRL, increasing numbers of academic libraries are shifting from traditional collection development to patron-driven acquisitions (PDA) or demand-driven acquisitions (DDA), including 51.2% of doctoral/research universities, 37.7% of comprehensive institutions, 27.6% of baccalaureate schools, and 18.4% of associate degree–granting institutions. Library participation in open education initiatives (Open Access textbooks, textbook publishing, or learning resources) is spreading with 40.5% of doctoral/research universities, 22.4% of comprehensive institutions, 21.2% of baccalaureate schools, and 24% of associate degree–granting institutions reporting participation. Institutional repositories are now a part of 73.9% of doctoral/research universities, 47.2% of comprehensive schools, 21.2% of baccalaureate schools, and 24% of associate degree–granting institutions providing access to doctoral dissertations, faculty and student scholarship, and graduate theses.

New roles, staffing, and salaries

Academic libraries provided 23.7% of all jobs for new library school graduates in 2015, down from 26.7% in 2013. The average starting salary for academic librarians was $46,850, up 9.4% over 2014.

New graduates are working with digital platforms in such areas as scholarly communication, digital archives, data curation, digital humanities, visualization, and born-digital objects. Other emerging areas include bibliometrics and altmetrics, e-learning, custom information solutions, and research data management.

Doctoral and research institutions employed an average of 126 professional staff; comprehensive institutions employed an average of 65.8 professional staff; baccalaureate schools employed an average of 10.7 professional staff; and associate degree–granting institutions employed an average of 5.2 professional staff, according to a 2015 ACRL survey.

Library expenditures for salaries and wages accounted for 62% of the total library expenditures on average, with 89.8% of total library expenditures for associate degree–granting institutions, 70.5% for baccalaureate, 74.7% for comprehensive schools, and 60.7% for doctoral/research institutions.

State of America's Libraries 2017