Academic Libraries

State of America's Libraries 2018

ALA’s Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) conducts an annual survey of staffing, collections, expenditures, operations, and initiatives for all academic libraries in the United States. The statistics in this section are taken from the most recent data set in 2016.

Staffing trends

In the past five years, 21% of all academic libraries saw staffing increases, while 19% saw decreased funding and 60% reported flat budgets. Expenditures for salaries and wages accounted for 57.2% of the total library expenditures on average. Salaries and wages constituted 76.5% of total library expenditures for associate-degree granting institutions, 52.3% for baccalaureates, 55.7% for comprehensive schools, and 44.5% for doctoral/research institutions.

During the same time period, almost 61% of academic libraries repurposed or cross-trained staff to better support for new technologies or services or provide support new positions or library departments. Retirements and budget constriction were also factors.


Although almost two-thirds of libraries reported flat budgets, new services continue to grow. The top five new services currently supported by academic libraries are web development, open access institutional repositories, learning systems, digital humanities, and digital media production. Other services supported by library staff include massive open online course (MOOC) development, e-portfolio development, makerspaces, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Most academic libraries employ staff to provide specialized assistance with copyright, metadata, data management, research impact, instructional design, and data visualization.

In the past five years, more than 58% of all academic libraries have changed their reference staffing models, with the most popular change being a switch to on-call staffing. Academic libraries also provide staff and other support to such campus services as writing centers (42%), tutoring (39%), testing (25%), diversity and equity (12%), and digital scholarship labs (11%).

Academic library staff provided instructional sessions (face-to-face as well as electronic) for more than 6.2 million students. Almost 43% of these sessions were digital.

Doctoral degree–granting institutions averaged the most reference transactions and consultations per year (more than 16,700), followed by comprehensive universities (more than 5,100 transactions and consultations), community colleges (more than 7,200), and baccalaureate schools (more than 2,300).

Doctoral or research universities accounted for more than 85% of institutional repository usage followed by comprehensive universities (9%), baccalaureate schools (5%), and community colleges (1%). More than 1.2 million items were accessed in 2016.


Libraries in doctoral degree–granting institutions were open an average of 109 hours per week, followed by comprehensive university libraries at 88 hours per week and baccalaureate school libraries at 87 hours per week. Community college libraries were open an average of 63 hours per week.


Academic library expenditures for collection materials averaged $5,623,980 for doctoral degree–granting institutions, $701,778 for comprehensive degree–granting institutions, $493,206 for baccalaureate schools, and $148,822 for associate degree–granting institutions. On average, doctoral degree–granting institutions spent 70.9% of their materials budgets on ongoing commitments to subscriptions in 2016, comprehensive schools spent an average of 79.2%, baccalaureate schools spent 74.2%, and associate degree–granting institutions spent 55.2%. On average, academic libraries spent 69.8% of their materials budget on journal subscriptions.

State of America's Libraries 2018