ACRL, PLA partner launch Benchmark, a new digital data tool for libraries

For Immediate Release
Tue, 10/26/2021


Communications and Marketing Office

ALA Media Relations


CHICAGO – The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) and Public Library Association (PLA) now offer Benchmark: Library Metrics and Trends to power library data analysis and visualization. This new digital resource can help libraries plan, make informed decisions, and tell the story of their impact. 

Through Benchmark, library professionals have access to a centralized collection of their library data and the ability to compare with peer libraries using a robust set of visualization and reporting tools. Public libraries have access to PLA survey data, Public Libraries Survey data (reported to the Institute of Museum and Library Services), and census data. Academic libraries have access to ACRL Academic Library Trends and Statistics Survey data. Subscribers will find an intuitive interface that supports analysis and reporting efforts. Virtual data dashboards and customized comparison tools are interactive and user-friendly.

“This innovative joint project with ACRL and PLA aligns perfectly with the association's new pivot strategy,” said American Library Association (ALA) Executive Director Tracie Hall. “This timely collaboration to provide current meaningful data to library thought leaders comes at a moment when there is an urgent need for this kind of deep, high-quality data that can guide decision making. I expect Benchmark to have a profound impact on the field, empowering library workers to analyze and advance the financial health of their institutions through good decisions based on reliable data.”

The new Benchmark tool provides the most comprehensive data available, aligning with the ALA’s commitment to serving as a clearinghouse for library data and trends. It fills gaps in U.S. libraries’ ability to understand their performance in context with peers. Peer comparisons, or Benchmarking, can help libraries support everyday decision-making, establish baselines, and identify opportunities to improve service. 

“With the creation of Benchmark, ACRL addresses a core responsibility to provide the field with timely access to important academic library metrics, and 21st-century dashboards,” said ACRL President Julie Ann Garrison. “I am pleased to say that this new, easy-to-use information service makes conducting your own analyses of the survey data any time you want, as often as you want, using peer comparison groups that you create, a much needed tool to advance academic library practice.”

Benchmark offers dashboard visualizations aligned with principles in the ACRL Standards for Libraries in Higher Education and provides access to data from the ACRL Academic Library Trends and Statistics Survey, the largest survey of academic libraries in the country. Fielded annually since 1998, the survey provides one of the most comprehensive portraits of academic libraries' impact across the U.S. Oversight for the survey is provided by the ACRL Academic Library Trends and Statistics Survey Editorial Board.

Benchmark vastly multiplies the power of library data for planning and advocacy with user-friendly tools and customization,” said PLA President Melanie Huggins. “At the same time, PLA is reducing overlap in data collection and focusing on surveys that provide unique data that complements the annual Public Library Survey from IMLS and state libraries.”

Benchmark replaces the historic Public Library Data Service (PLDS), discontinued in 2019 after virtual town halls and member outreach highlighted requests for better peer comparison data, user-friendly interfaces for data analysis and reporting, less redundancy in data collection, and improved data training related to community indicators. PLA and its Measurement, Evaluation and Assessment Committee (MEAC) decided to invest resources in developing a new tool to better meet the field’s needs. Benchmark is the result.

All public and academic libraries have free access to open surveys, their survey responses and select summary data in Benchmark. Libraries and other individuals or organizations interested in library data will subscribe and have access to a full suite of peer data and interactive tools. Subscription discounts will be available to PLA and ACRL organizational members and libraries that participate in Benchmark surveys. 

In fall 2021, academic and public library leaders are invited to complete open annual surveys in Benchmark. Participation will help make the results powerful and actionable for libraries across the country and support ALA’s advocacy efforts. Public libraries are invited to participate in PLA’s Staff and Diversity Survey and academic libraries are invited to complete ACRL’s annual Trends and Statistics Survey.

Additional Benchmark information is available on the PLA and ACRL websites and project managers can answer questions. Public libraries should contact, and academic libraries should contact

About Association of College & Research Libraries
The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) is the higher education association for academic libraries and library workers. Representing nearly 9,000 individuals and libraries, ACRL (a division of the American Library Association) develops programs, products, and services to help those working in academic and research libraries learn, innovate, and lead within the academic community. Founded in 1940, ACRL is committed to advancing learning, transforming scholarship, and creating diverse and inclusive communities. Find ACRL on the webFacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube

About Public Library Association
The Public Library Association (PLA) is the largest association dedicated to supporting the unique and evolving needs of public library professionals. Founded in 1944, PLA serves nearly 10,000 members in public libraries large and small in communities across the United States and Canada, with a growing presence around the world. PLA strives to help its members shape the essential institution of public libraries by serving as an indispensable ally for public library leaders. Find PLA on the web, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. For more information about PLA, contact the PLA office at 1 (800) 545-2433, ext. 5PLA, or