Academic Libraries

State of America's Libraries Report

Our nation’s academic libraries have a major impact on student success. Statistics gathered by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of ALA, demonstrate how academic libraries support many types of high-impact educational practices (HIPS) that have beneficial effects on student retention, graduation rates, time to graduation, and grade point average.

ACRL conducts an annual survey of staffing, collections, expenditures, operations, and initiatives for all academic libraries in the United States. The most recent data, from 2018, show that academic libraries promote deep learning by promoting student engagement as measured by the National Survey on Student Engagement (NSSE). Of the 10 practices that qualify as HIPS, first-year seminars, writing-intensive courses, undergraduate research with a faculty member, and capstone projects for seniors are the learning experiences most frequently promoted by academic libraries.

Academic libraries also support other high-impact practices, including international study and global learning, service-learning projects, internships, and e-portfolios. Nearly 27% of academic libraries in the US provide support for at least one high-impact educational practice. (This statistic and other academic library data can be found in ACRL’s 2018 ACRL Academic Library Trends and Statistics and the ACRLMetrics subscription-only database online.) 

Programs and services

Academic librarians are uniquely situated to influence student learning in a variety of ways—through the reference desk, one-shot classroom sessions, one-on-one consultations, collaboration with faculty, and cocurricular activities. Academic library staff provided instructional sessions (both face-to-face and electronic) to more than 7 million students annually (nearly one-third of the 2018 student FTE enrollment). More than 57% of the almost 800,000 instructional sessions were digital or electronic.

Doctoral degree-granting institutions averaged more than 15,400 reference transactions and consultations per year, followed by comprehensive universities (with more than 4,900 transactions and consultations), community colleges (with more than 8,100 transactions and consultations), and baccalaureate schools (more than 2,700 transactions and consultations.

Access and usage

Libraries in doctoral degree–granting institutions were open an average of 109.75 hours per week and were visited by more than 966,000 users on average annually. Comprehensive university libraries were open on average 91.02 hours per week and averaged 296,000 visits per year. Baccalaureate libraries were open an average of 89.74 hours per week and averaged 179,000 visits per year. Community colleges were open an average of 63.77 hours per week and averaged 203,000 visits per year. Collectively, academic libraries reported more than 1 billion visits in 2018 for an average of 47 visits per FTE student.

Electronic resource usage continued to grow in academic libraries. Materials in institutional repositories received more than 622 million uses, ebooks more than 532 million uses, and e-serials recorded more than 818 million uses. Additionally, academic libraries borrowed more than 6.3 million items for their communities from other libraries through interlibrary loan.

Students using the Barbara J. Burger iZone at the University of Rochester in New York
The Barbara J. Burger iZone at the University of Rochester in New York, was featured in American Libraries' 2019 Library Design Showcase.

Collections

Academic library expenditures for collection materials averaged $5,346,929 for doctoral degree–granting institutions, $682,823 for comprehensive degree–granting institutions, $494,883 for baccalaureate schools, and $196,050 for associate degree–granting institutions.

On average, doctoral degree–granting institutions spent 77.4% of their materials budgets on ongoing commitments to subscriptions in 2018; comprehensive schools spent an average of 80.7%; baccalaureate schools spent an average of 79.6%; and associate degree–granting institutions spent an average of 64.8%. All academic libraries spent an average of 73.8% of their materials budget on ongoing subscriptions.

In 2018, doctoral degree–granting institutions spent an average of $356.77 per student on materials; comprehensive schools spent an average of $140.18; baccalaureate schools averaged $222.55 per student in materials expenditures; and associate degree–granting institutions spent an average of $39.65.

Staffing trends

Spending on salaries and wages accounted for 56.3% of total library expenditures on average. Salaries and wages constituted 72.9% of total library expenditures for associate degree–granting institutions, 51.6% for baccalaureates, 55.4% for comprehensive schools, and 42.8% for doctoral or research institutions.

Associate degree–granting institutions had an average of 4.92 FTE librarians serving 4,945 students; baccalaureate schools had an average of 5.38 FTE librarians serving 2,224 students; comprehensive universities served an average of 4,871 students with an average of 7.8 FTE librarians; and doctoral or research institutions served 14,957 students with 30.13 FTE librarians.

Tweet this: DID YOU KNOW? 7 million Students who received instructional sessions (both face-to-face and electronic) from academic library staff annually (nearly one-third of the 2018 student FTE enrollment) 1 billion+ Visits reported by academic libraries collectively in 2018 (an average of 47 visits per FTE student).

State of America's Libraries Report