Demonstrating our Value Requires Valid Statistical Data

In October 2013, Mary Jane Petrowski, ACRL Associate Director, shared a blog entitled, “ACRL Metrics: Enhancing Data-Driven Decision Making.”  In that posting, Mary Jane shared information about ACRLMetrics the online tool that is currently collecting data for the ACRL 2012-13 Academic Library Trends and Statistics Survey. Collection of data in a standard survey on an annual basis is essential for academic libraries that wish to demonstrate value to their institutions.  In their work, Viewing Library Metrics from Different Perspectives: Inputs, Outputs, and Outcomes , [1] Robert E. Dugan, Peter Hernon and Danuta A. Nitecki include in their appendices a series of tables that identify the type of metrics that can be used to track trends within your own institution as well as provide benchmarks and comparisons to peer institutions.  While this data is useful for tracking internal trends, we need the same data to be available to the larger academic library audience.  That means it is essential for academic libraries to contribute their statistics to an annual standard survey.  This need is more urgent based on the fact that the last NCES Academic Library Survey has been completed and published.  2012 is the last year that data will be collected in that form. [2]    Approximately 4,000 academic libraries including community colleges, 4 year, institutions, Master’s level and research universities participated in that biennial survey.  We need the same level of participation in the ACRL survey in order to have valid data that can be used by libraries.

The Association for Research Libraries has an established survey tool and system for collecting statistical data from their member institutions, but the ARL is limited to its 125 members.  While they provide a valuable service in providing excellent summary and trend data, it does not replace the need for detailed information from many more academic libraries including community colleges and smaller four-year institutions.

ACRL has been working to establish an online standard survey tool and system for all academic libraries to use.  ACRLMetrics [3] became available in 2010 and is an online tool that utilizes a system to collect your data and then share the contributed data in both trend reports and user-generated reports and focuses on the same suggested metrics that are presented in Viewing Library Metrics from Different Perspectives.  All library directors or someone designated in your institution should have received an email invitation with password information to access the online survey in order to submit your data on collections, staffing, services, and expenditures. The deadline for completing the survey is April 30, 2014.  Information including the worksheet and instructions will be found on the website.

If you did not receive an invitation, you can access support at  You also make direct contact by sending an email to Lindsay Thompson at or calling 800-521-4930.

I hope that you will see the value in contributing your statistics to the ACRL survey.  The more libraries that contribute, the greater will be the benefits for all academic libraries.  By doing so, you will help contribute to the data that we need when preparing reports demonstrating the value we provide to our institutions.



[1] Robert E. Dugan, Peter Hernon, Danuta A. Nitecki. Viewing Library Metrics from Different Perspectives: Inputs, Outputs, and Outcomes. (Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited, 2009)

[2] A much shorter version of the NCES ALS survey will be included in IPEDs beginning in 2015.  You can review the new form on the IPEDs website.

[3] If you are not familiar with ACRLMetrics, it is a subscription service.  However, libraries that contribute their statistics do receive a subscription discount.  I am not trying to sell subscriptions to this service.  I am more concerned that we have a survey tool that accurately reflects data from more academic libraries.  If interested, you can obtain information on subscriptions at their website, but I will point out that if you contribute your data, you become eligible for a subscription at less than $200.


Libraries and Accreditation

We value assessment for the purposes of improving teaching and learning, but there is no denying that accreditation drives many assessment efforts at our various institutions. How do libraries contribute to accreditation efforts?

In an article based based on a paper presented at LILAC 2013, Cara Bradley looks at “Information literacy in the programmatic university accreditation standards of select professions in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.” The study finds “significant variation in the language used in the professions to describe the concept of IL, highlighting the alternative language used in the various professions to describe this ability. The study also maps outcomes outlined in the accreditation documents to the Association of College and Research Libraries’ (ACRL’s) Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (ACRL 2000) in order to identify areas of overlapping concern.”

In other research on information literacy, libraries, and accreditation, Laura Saunders has published several items of interest:

  • Saunders, L. (2007). Regional accreditation organizations’ treatment of information literacy: Definitions, collaboration, and assessment. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 33(3), 317-326. doi:
  • Saunders, L. (2008). Perspectives on accreditation and information literacy as reflected in the literature of library and information science. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34(4), 305-313. doi:
  • Saunders, L. (2011). Information literacy as a student learning outcome :The perspective of institutional accreditation. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Libraries Unlimited.

For other thoughts about library value and accreditation, see the Value report, pages 54-55.

Contributing to Overall Institutional Reputation or Prestige

In the Value Report, the last question offered to readers asks, “How does the library contribute to overall institutional reputation or prestige?” There are several factors that are listed, but the third mentions that one of the ways libraries can contribute is through their special collections. As stated, “special collections can be the ‘differentiating characteristic of research universities, the equivalent of unique laboratory facilities that attract faculty and research projects'”. (Pritchard, Special Collections Surge to the Fore 2009.) [Value, page 137] Unique special collections are not just found in research libraries, as many smaller colleges have distinctive special collections that also provide value to their institutions. In fact, there is increasing use of institutional repositories and image collection management  services that are being used to showcase and provide access to unique materials.  One can collect usage statistics for these types of online services, but there may be additional tools you’ve found useful to promote the value to your institution.  In evaluating your impact, one resource may be a toolkit for Archives and Special collections that is available online.

The University of Michigan has put together a toolkit, Archival Metrics,  in cooperation with the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and the University of Toronto. In addition to the toolkit, there is a list of publications and presentations, as well as a bibliography of related materials

If you have completed some independent studies of your special collections and the prestige they bring to your institution, please share and let us know the nature of your study and if any completed reports are available.

Please note the Value blog will be taking a short holiday break and be back in January.